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Jet boats enforcement concerns residents

by JOSH McDONALD
Staff Writer | August 6, 2020 1:00 AM

The war for the North Fork continues 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 jet boats on 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 statewide 100-foot “no wake zone” law.

The law states that there is to be no wake created by anything going over 5 mph from all docks, structures and persons in the water on public waters.

Shoshone County Sheriff Mike Gunderson said he would like to crack down on the folks who are driving the boats haphazardly up and down the river, but there is one major hurdle.

“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 shut down a jet boat race earlier this year, but he mentioned there are debates over whether the boats create an actual wake because they skim across the top of the water.

In June, the Shoshone Board of County Commissioners 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 dangerous speeds.

“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.

“The issue with our river is we have so many recreators,” he said. “We’ve tried to address it. Without having the right equipment, it’s hard for us to do anything.”