BOCC hears jet boat complaint

by Josh McDonald
Staff Reporter | June 25, 2020 1:29 PM

WALLACE — The Shoshone Board of County Commissioners had a meeting on Monday morning to hear a growing concern among recreators on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River.

Ralph Shay, a fisherman who spends a lot of time on the North Fork, has grown very concerned with the unfettered use of shallow water jet boats that are being run up and down the river at speeds that seem hazardous given the river’s many twists and turns.

Last January, Shay was along the North Fork when an unmarked jet boat came around the corner at speeds that would have made it impossible for himself or the driver of the boat to maneuver out of the way had he been in the water.

“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.”

Shay also was frustrated that the boat, which he caught up to in his car and snapped photos of, had no distinguishable registration numbers or anything that showed they were registered in any way.

Shay’s hopes are to get the county to create and enforce an ordinance that would limit these boats’ access to part of the North Fork, particularly the more narrow parts.

Idaho has a 100-foot “no wake zone” from all docks, structures and persons in the water on public waters statewide.

Local agencies such as Kootenai County pass additional speed restrictions from the shoreline, between boats and at specific sites.

“These boats do create a wake,” Shay said. “I don’t think there’s anywhere on the North Fork that’s 100-feet wide.”

As of right now, Shoshone County doesn’t have any additional ordinances, they also don’t have much ability to enforce anything due to coverage and lack of ability to properly police the waterways.

Shoshone County Sheriff Mike Gunderson expounded the situation, including discussing how his department shut down a recent jet boat event that was attempting to happen without proper permitting.

“These are some of the concerns we had when this started getting popular,” Gunderson said. “We want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to use our waterways, but how do we control it? The biggest problem we have with our river is the multi-use on it, whether it’s fishermen, people swimming or floating, or just regular residential folks.”

The BOCC heard Shay’s concerns, but advised him to begin working with Shoshone County Planning and Zoning to see if enough information can be gathered to allow the county to pursue the creation of an ordinance, but the ball was put in Shay’s court to pursue this issue.

“Obviously, safety on the river is a concern for us, but there are a lot of involved parties here,” said BOCC Chairman Mike Fitzgerald. “But we need to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard on this issue. If those boaters came to us to complain about the fishermen, we’d have to tell them the same thing.”