local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 last week
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs



Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of April 23 - 29, 2003


Blaine could ban
personal watercraft
use on SNRA lakes

Express Staff Writer

Using authority granted by the state of Idaho, Blaine County is considering a ban of personal watercraft use on Alturas and Pettit lakes in the Sawtooth Valley.

The Blaine County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed "Jetski" ban at 9 a.m. on Monday, April 28 at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey.

A public notice for the meeting cites that Jetskis have triggered safety concerns, adverse impacts to humans and wildlife and a rising tally of complaints. It also cites the overall "special qualities" of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area as evidence for action.

In addition to Alturas and Pettit lake jetski bans, the draft ordinance suggests designating Perkins Lake, a small glacial lake just east of Alturas Lake, a "no watercraft zone."

"Frankly, I think the technology, the noise and the safety—they really aren’t appropriate on small, alpine lakes," said Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael, who is spearheading the effort. "They’re contrary to the values of the SNRA."

Michael said she has received a lot of positive feedback on the proposal, but she declined to predict how next week’s public hearing might go.

According to the proposed ordinance, "the high speed, maneuverability and other operating characteristics of personal watercraft as well as the waves and noise created by personal watercraft, can cause extreme disruption to other vessels, swimmers, canoeists, campers and the natural environment."

If approved, Blaine would join its northern neighbor, Custer County, in restricting water-based, motorized recreation in the shadows of the Sawtooth Mountains. Last summer, the Custer County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to restrict all motorized watercraft use on Stanley Lake between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m.

"The Board of County Commissioners of Custer County has determined that it will improve the morals, peace and good order, comfort and convenience of the county and its inhabitants to protect this (camping and fishing) historical use," according to the Custer County ordinance.

Restricting and regulating personal watercraft use is an issue to which the American Canoe Association has devoted considerable energy.

According to the ACA’s research, Jetskis are involved in 55 percent of all collisions between vessels occurring on U.S. waters. They comprise less than 10 percent of all vessels.

"These findings confirm people’s worst fears about the threat personal watercraft use poses to the recreating public," said David Jenkins, American Canoe Association director of conservation and public policy. "The degree of disparity between personal watercraft collision rates and those of other vessels is stunning, and it is particularly troubling that existing regulatory approaches show no sign of closing that gap."

In a report, called "Hostile Waters: The Impacts of Personal Watercraft Use on Waterway Recreation," the ACA calls for new measures to address the unique impacts of personal Jetskis on other waterway users. Zoning, prohibitions on small lakes and rivers and increasing criminal penalties for reckless operation are a few of suggestions offered by the ACA.

However, more regulations and an outright ban on personal watercraft use don’t sit well with everyone.

"Like any issue with public lands and public waters, there needs to be an appropriate process in which the issues are flushed out, and then a solution other than an out-and-out ban can come forward," said Jack Welch, president of the Blue Ribbon Coalition board of directors. "Just to out-and-out ban it is not appropriate, because there’s a far better solution that can solve these issues."

Welch said zoning or time restrictions might be a better fit for the Sawtooth Valley lakes, though he acknowledged he was unfamiliar with this specific issue.

Closer to home, Stu Backstatter, who owns Pro-Line Sports and Power Equipment in Ketchum, said a ban doesn’t make sense to him. His company does not sell personal watercraft.

"I just have trouble with things being banned for the sake of banning them," he said. "Perhaps it can be with certain hours like they did with water skiing."

The management of the area is such that the U.S. Forest Service only has authority over launch sites said Sawtooth National Forest Spokesman Ed Waldapfel.

Waterway authority is up to individual states, but in Idaho, the state has offered authority over regulation of personal watercraft to "any political subdivision."

Idaho municipalities may, according to Idaho Code, designate no-wake areas, personal watercraft-only areas, personal watercraft-free areas or minimum distance from shore requirements.


Ski Reports


City of Ketchum

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League



Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.