Monday, March 20, 2023

Don't surrender waterways to outsiders

| May 22, 2021 1:00 AM

This Monday, May 24, a critical vote goes before our Kootenai County commissioners.

Bill Brooks, Leslie Duncan and Chris Fillios will be voting on whether you, your children and your grandchildren will be able to enjoy one of our favorite local waterways. Their decision has the potential to ban certain boats from the Spokane River, and this sets a dangerous precedent. But the real question is this: Do Bill, Leslie and Chris believe in the rights of the Idaho public, or in the special interests of a few wealthy outsiders?

My family is fortunate to own property along the Spokane River. We have an encroachment permit for a dock which allows us to infringe on the Idaho public waterway and enjoy using our family boat. Our dock is well constructed and shows no damage from boat wakes. We also have a retaining wall to inhibit erosion. Again, it is well built to handle wakes as well as the natural cycles of erosion.

We have a wake surfing boat, and my kids, family and friends enjoy surfing on this public waterway. I love my kids to surf because the sport is safe. Compared to water skiing, wakeboarding or tubing, the boat is going much slower and the kids are closer to the boat. Along with so many other parents, I appreciate the fact that my kids and I can enjoy quality time together on the water. It’s a positive, healthy activity that is part of the north Idaho lifestyle.

As someone who boats on the river frequently, I can tell you that tow boats are navigating the Spokane River with respect and following the rules. The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, which has patrol boats on the river all summer, can definitely second this.

I have lived on the Spokane River off and on for nearly 40 years and my kids are fourth-generation Post Falls residents. Over the years I have observed consistently that newcomers move to Idaho and then want to change the rules.

Out-of-towners are attracted to our area but then immediately begin to yearn for control over the freedom that we locals love. They place their selfish interests and personal entitlement in front of the life-changing recreational opportunities our youth deserve to enjoy on their public waterways.

To those who put this misguided piece of legislation in front of the commissioners, and are now attempting to influence their vote, I would say this: If you say that boats are taking away your serenity, you are a scrooge. Remember, you chose to buy that expensive home on a public waterway.

And keep in mind that most boat traffic only occurs for three months a year on the weekends. So you get 341 days of peace and quiet, and the public that owns the river gets essentially 24 days to enjoy it. And you should also understand that a dock is a privilege, not a right. If the one you “own” on the public waterway is falling apart, it is your choice to build a better one.

To all of us, I would say that in general, as our population grows, we are all going to have to learn to be more tolerant of our neighbors. This kind of selfishness has no place here. Let’s work to control ourselves and our own actions, but let’s not try to control our neighbor.

If you want quiet, go somewhere quiet. But don’t form a special interest group so the few can tell the many how to live.

My family, my neighbors and the community believe our first priority on this matter, as Idahoans, is to our children on their public waterways.

We don’t care about your old dock; we care about the kids!


Ross Schlotthauer and family are Post Falls residents.

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