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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of April 30 - May 6, 2003


‘Jetski’ ban receives positive appraisal

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 Hailey.

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 regulation.

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 personal watercraft.

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 enforce them.

"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.


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