SALEM (AP) — Prospects for expanding wakeboarding restrictions on a popular section of Oregon's Willamette river appeared to recede Monday.
The proposal would have expanded rules restricting the sport on a particularly popular section of the Willamette River, including a stretch known locally as "the zone," and added penalties. But prior to a packed public hearing on the proposal Monday, the measure's sponsor, Rep. Richard Vial, submitted an amendment that removed the language proposing the toughened restrictions. A study group would be created instead.
Reached after the hearing, the Republican Vial said that after talking to residents he had decided a study group seemed more appropriate. Vial also cited difficulties enforcing current restrictions.
The focus of the controversy is boats specially designed or modified to create large waves, over and off of which towed riders can flip and launch. Some boats are built with hulls molded to shape the water flowing past them into large, curled waves, and a secondary market exists for devices owners can attach to the hulls of their boats to exaggerate the effect.
Area residents and boaters, as well as representatives of companies selling wakeboarding boats and equipment, disagreed Monday over exactly how much effect the wakes have.
Riverfront residents told legislators on the House Transportation Committee that during busy times of year, large wakes make it difficult or dangerous to use their floating docks and erode the shoreline. Wakeboard enthusiasts were skeptical that the sport, which tends to draw the most participants the handful of hot summer weekends every year, amounted to a real burden for home owners or danger to property.
The sport has been the subject of controversy elsewhere. Idaho and Washington have also seen complaints from homeowners in popular boating designations over damage from the wakes and enforce their own boating boundaries.