Power to the power boats

  Northwest Republican lawmakers want to swamp efforts to regulate noisy power boats in Hells Canyon. Claiming that "the use of motorized river craft is deeply interwoven in the history, traditions, and culture of Hells Canyon," Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, introduced a bill allowing both powerboats and floatboats year-around access to the entire 71-mile stretch of the Snake River running through the canyon. That contradicts proposed Forest Service rules to keep power boats off 21 miles of the river on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during July and August. And it leaves Ric Bailey, floatboat outfitter and head of the Hells Canyon Preservation Council, fuming.

"The bill couldn't be any worse if it legislated ownership of the canyon to the jetboaters," Bailey says. The bill ignores conflicts between floatboaters seeking quiet on the river, he says, and power boats, some driven by 900 horsepower engines. He recounts stories of kayakers flipped by boat wakes and jetboaters using floaters as a slalom course.

Sandra Mitchell, head of the pro-power boat Hells Canyon Alliance, says boaters "do get along and can get along." Currently, jetboats enjoy unlimited access to Hells Canyon, while floaters are limited to five launches per day.

*Warren Cornwall

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