Pamplin Media Group – Opinion: Don’t Punish All Oregon Boaters Because Of One Person

Palmer Kellum: As a waterfront owner and longtime resident, hearing and seeing PWC riders is part of the territory.

For over 60 years I lived on the Willamette River, less than three miles from Meldrum Bar. It’s the best place in the world to live and, until recently, the best place to be a boater.

In recent years, Oregon’s waterways have been inundated with regulations and ordinances. Our lakes and rivers are among the most regulated in the country. Now there is another prescription to consider. A blatant overreach that punishes all watercraft users for the actions of a single bad actor.

A small group of shoreline property owners are trying to push through a new “narrative standards” ordinance because they want to be able to call the police if they think a boat motor or music might be too loud.

If passed, an Oregon boater could receive a citation if an officer subjectively thinks his music or engine is too loud, even if it’s within the legal decibel limit. Yes, you read that right.

Our first responders have had enough on their plates. The last thing they need is a subjective noise rule to apply. Trying to measure shoreline noise on a busy day on the river is impossible. How will you tell the calm from the strong?

As an owner and permanent resident along the river, hearing and seeing watercraft users is something that has always accompanied the territory. The boating season in Oregon lasts only four short months. At this time, the boating community brings a lot of value to our state. It is something we should celebrate, support and appreciate.

It all started with a troublesome jet skier. Should all boaters in Oregon be punished because of one person? The new limit of 75 decibels is a reasonable and fair limit. The focus should remain on enforcing current laws and not adding another law or ordinance for every little thing that annoys us on the river. If things continue at this rate, I fear that one day boaters will no longer be able to enjoy the river at all.

As a former member of the Lower Willamette River Rulemaking Committee, I am familiar with the work of the Oregon State Marine Board. I have spent my time advocating for all watercraft users to share space with respect. We must remember that the Willamette River belongs to all of us and we must find a way to follow the rules already in place. I urge the Oregon State Marine Board to reject the “narrative standard” at its July 28 meeting.

Palmer Kellum is a resident of Oak Grove.

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