Through Hells and high water

  Jetboats will be banned for 21 days each summer on a 21-mile stretch of the Snake River through Hells Canyon, according to a Forest Service plan that's been a decade in the making.


Environmentalists and recreationists who float the river between Idaho and Oregon praised the restriction as a long-overdue first step toward returning quiet to the canyon. Jetboaters vowed to fight it, and planned a one-hour blockade of the canyon in November.


Sandra Mitchell, executive director of the Hells Canyon Alliance, says jetboaters and other motorized watercraft users acknowledge the need for some regulation but adamantly oppose the 21-day ban. "Would you go to Disneyland for solitude?" she asks. "The Snake is a motorized river. Don't go there if you don't want to see a motorized craft."


Ric Bailey, executive director of the Hells Canyon Preservation Council, says those claims are all wet. Jetboaters have no problem sharing the river with floatboaters, says Bailey, in the same way that smokers don't mind lighting up in a room of nonsmokers. "We make all the sacrifices!'


Although there will undoubtedly be appeals, a U.S. District Court judge said the Forest Service needs a plan in place by the summer of 1997.


* Patrick Dowd