‘Jetski’ ban receives positive
Follow-up meeting scheduled
The Blaine County Board of
Commissioners is considering legislation that would ban personal watercraft use
on Petit and Alturas lakes, both in the Sawtooth Valley.
A second public hearing on the topic
will be held Wednesday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the old County Courthouse in
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Citing pollution, safety concerns and
excessive noise, the people of Blaine County said almost unanimously this week
that "Jetskis" should be banned from two glacial lakes in the Sawtooth Valley.
Monday, April 28, was the first
opportunity for citizens to air opinions on Blaine County Commissioner Sarah
Michael’s plan to ban personal watercraft on Petit and Alturas lakes, both in
the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Nearly 50 attended the 9 a.m. meeting of
the Blaine County Board of Commissioners.
Of approximately 20 people who testified,
three said they did not support the ban.
Jerome resident Patricia Callan, who said
she has camped and water-skied at Alturas Lake for 50 years, was among them. The
government’s gradual encroachment on average citizens’ liberties is not
acceptable, she said.
"We believe Jetskis are just another step
to an eventual ban of all motor watercraft," she said.
But those in the pro-Jetski camp,
including two Blaine County residents, were the clear minority. Noise and
pollution concerns were repeated complaints among the ban’s proponents.
"It’s an impediment to the peace and
tranquillity, and I think we all agree that Petit and Alturas lakes are special
places," said Hulen Meadows resident Jim Jaquet.
East Fork resident Brian Ross, a
biologist, said environmental impacts from Jetskis are too severe for the small
lakes to handle. He cited a Bluewater Network study stating that an average
two-hour ride on a personal watercraft can dump between 3 and 4 gallons of gas
and oil into the water.
"This is a no-brainer as far as
environmental impact to this area," Ross said.
There is no argument about the beauty of
the Sawtooth Valley’s lakes, which were built by moraines that formed from
glacial activity in the Sawtooth Mountains. The tree-enshrouded moraines frame
the crystal lakes, and the craggy granite Sawtooths are a dramatic backdrop.
Of the five sizable moraine lakes—Alturas,
Petit, Yellow Belly, Redfish and Stanley—only Petit and Alturas are in Blaine
County. The remaining lakes are in neighboring Custer County. While Custer
County has taken steps to restrict the use of all motorized crafts on Stanley
Lake during certain hours, the more popular Redfish Lake has remained free of
None of the lakes is large. Redfish, the
largest, has a 2.4-square-mile water surface. Petit is .6 of a square mile, and
Alturas is 1.3 square miles.
Yellowbelly Lake is accessed only by a
primitive four-wheel-drive road and is not frequently boated.
In addition to banning personal watercraft
on Alturas and Petit lakes, cooperation with Custer County was a predominate
theme at the Monday meeting.
"We are dealing with a national asset here
(the SNRA), and, unfortunately, it’s divided among two counties," said County
Commissioner Dennis Wright.
Wright said that, while support for the
ban in Blaine County was obvious, more input was needed. Opinions should be
sought from the citizens of Stanley and the Custer County Board of
Commissioners, he said.
"The piecemeal changes to one or more of
these lakes could have unintended consequences," agreed Bob Hayes, executive
director of the Sawtooth Society, a nonprofit advocate group for the Sawtooth
National Recreation Area.
Blaine County has the authority to
restrict personal watercraft under jurisdiction granted to it by the state of
Idaho in the Idaho Safe Boating Act.
The act states that any political
subdivision may adopt ordinances that establish zones for the operation of
Blaine County Waterways Commissioner Mary
Austin Crofts told the county commission the most frequent complaints she
receives center on Jetskis.
Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling added
that any regulations adopted would only be as good as the county’s ability to
"It’s much easier to enforce if it’s an
outright ban," he said.
SNRA Area Ranger Deb Cooper said the ban
would fit with the goals on which the recreation area was founded: scenic,
natural, historic, pastoral and fish and wildlife protection.
"I would like to see some morainal lakes
provide an opportunity for families to canoe, fish or swim without regard for
noise, exhaust, waves or safety concerns related to motorized/non-motorized
conflicts," Cooper said.