Oregon environmental group to file lawsuit against wakesurf boats

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The suit claims that wakes generated by towboats endanger salmon species.

The suit claims that wakes generated by towboats endanger salmon species.

The Oregon nonprofit Willamette Riverkeeper said in a statement that it filed a notice of intent to sue the Oregon State Marine Board and the Oregon Department of State Lands for threatening river habitats.

Citing the Endangered Species Act, the group said wakes generated by large wakesurf boats threaten such species as chinook, steelhead and coho, according to a report by the Portland Tribune. The organization said it will give the state agencies 60 days to reply; if no solution is provided, it will sue.

“Unfortunately, over the past few years, the advent of very heavy boats that sit deep in the water with the sole purpose of creating a surf wave are having a negative impact on the river’s habitat due to the large, artificial waves that slam into the shoreline and near-shore area,” Travis Williams, Willamette Riverkeeper executive director, said in the report.

Williams has been critical of the marine board’s policies regarding the Willamette River and filed a petition to enlist the Department of State Lands to prohibit medium and large wakesurfing boats on the river. The petition was denied.

The board moved forward with a proposal to allow wakesurfing in two sections of the river, but those rules haven’t been signed into law. Current rules allow for wakesurfing in a larger area.

As with similar suits filed around the country, the primary complaint is the waves and waterfront erosion. “Importing these waves to an inland river like the Willamette has a significantly detrimental impact to critical habitat and threatened species, and allowing this activity to occur is contrary to federal law,” said Willamette Riverkeeper attorney Elisabeth Holmes in a statement, according to the news report.

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