Jet boats enforcement concerns residents

Staff Reporter | August 4, 2020 4:11 PM

The war for the North Fork continues to rage on as Coeur d’Alene River property owners and recreators are at odds over the use of jet boats on the popular summer destination.

Folks recreating on the local waterways have long complained about the use of jet boats tearing up and down the rivers at speeds that are both unsafe and potentially illegal.

Several local residents have taken to social media to vent their frustrations, primarily surrounding the lack of enforcement of Idaho’s state-wide 100-foot “no wake zone” law.

The law states that there is to be no wake created by anything going over five miles per hour from all docks, structures and persons in the water on public waters.

Shoshone County Sheriff Mike Gunderson hasn’t turned a blind eye to the issue and would like to crack down on the folks who are driving the boats haphazardly up and down the river, however there is one major hurdle in the way for him to accomplish that.

“How do we address boats when we don’t have a boat ourselves?” Gunderson asked. “You gotta catch them in the act. They’re not going to pull over to the shoulder of the river for us waving them down.”

Gunderson thinks that his department would need an airboat to be able to competently patrol the river without causing a disturbance themselves.

As for the jet boats and their proclivity for traveling at high speeds, Gunderson has already shut down one jet boat race that was supposed to happen earlier this year, but he mentioned that there are debates over whether or not the boats actually create an actual wake due to them skimming across the top of the water.

In June, the Shoshone Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) spoke with fisherman Ralph Shay, who recounted a trip up the North Fork where he watched a jet boat traveling up and down the river at speeds that would make it impossible for the driver to miss a floater, a fisherman or another boat.

“They drive the river with impunity,” Shay said. “They don’t care about us fishermen, or rafters, or floaters, they don’t care, they’re driving that speed and it’s an accident waiting to happen. We’re here to enlist your help so that we don’t feel at risk.”

The BOCC recommended that Shay work with the county’s planning and zoning department to see if an ordinance could be created.

Gunderson also heard Shay’s plea for help, but is at the mercy of a situation where he can’t really help at this point.

“The issue with our river is we have so many recreators,” Gunderson said. “We’ve tried to address it. Without having the right equipment, it’s hard for us to do anything. We have to be able to have the equipment to go after them if we’re going to be able to enforce it.”

It is rumored that the new Coeur d’Alene River focus group, Friends of the River Coalition (FORC), is looking into the use of jet boats on the river and is hoping to put the brakes to the wakes.