Responding to complaints, the Port of Brookings Harbor is taking steps to make sure boaters know they will be held responsible for the wake they create in the boat basins and Chetco River channel.
According to Harbor Master Dan Thompson, the port is posting signs to make it clear boaters need to slow down or they will be liable for any damage done by the wake their boats make.
?We?ll have a total of five signs up posting a 5 mph speed limit and telling boaters they will be held responsible for their wake,? he said.
?The signs are being put out as a result of the port commission?s response to concerns that have been voiced about individuals speeding through the channel and boat basins, creating excessive and unnecessary wake.?
The port has an ordinance in place, drafted in 1998, that specifically deals with boat speeding and wakes.
The ordinance reads:
?All local, state and federal laws addressing boater safety will be enforced at the port.
?Boat movement in the basins is restricted by a posted ?No Wake? speed limit that all boaters must comply with.
?Violation of the port no-wake ordinance can result in a fine of up to $500 and/or a 30-day jail sentence.
?Each violation will be treated as a separate incident.
Thompson said there are several enforcement agencies that can cite violators at the port or in the Chetco River channel, including port officials, the Curry County Sheriff?s Office, the Oregon State Police, the Oregon State Marine Board and the U.S. Coast Guard.
A violator of the no-wake rule can be cited on the spot or later, according to Thompson.
?If we catch up with the violator, we can warn them or ticket them immediately,? he said. ?We can also issue warnings or tickets by mail if we have the boat registration number.?
Senior Trooper Brad Van Prooyen of the Oregon State Police said the state law is clear.
?If it?s a posted no-wake zone, as is the case at the port,? he said, ?then you cannot operate your boat in a manner that creates a wake.?
Van Prooyen said it was possible that a violator could also be held liable for any person or property damage caused by their wake.
?If you can prove and show cause, someone can be held liable,? he said. ?Ultimately, they can probably be held accountable for damage, but it would take a lot of hard work.?
Safety is the biggest concern in relation to the no-wake laws, Van Prooyen said.
?The marine laws are primarily designed for safety,? he said. ?For example, if someone was standing on a moored boat, there is the possibility of them being thrown overboard or injured by a wake.
?And property damage is an issue too, because boats moored tightly to the dock can be damaged by a wake. Damage can be done to the boat or lines or the dock.?
The potential for collision, especially with smaller vessels or the paddle boats and kayaks in the basins and Chetco River, are also a concern, Thompson said.
The harbor master said the problem is one of not knowing what your boat is doing. ?There are no rearview mirrors on boats,? he said. ?The boats pull and lift water in relationship to their speed as they displace water.
?Boaters often don?t realize the amount of wake they are creating because they don?t look behind to see what they are doing. Most of them are not aware of what they are pulling and they need to see it.?
Boater education is the most important tool that can be utilized to reduce the incidents of boaters violating the speed and no-wake rules at the port, Thompson said.
?First and foremost, the port wants to do education,? he said. ?Only if education fails do we want to have to enforce the laws.?
One example Thompson cited for the need of education involves the construction of the new marine fueling station on the transient dock across from the Coast Guard station.
?People are not used to the new fuel dock being there,? he said. ?They don?t slow down at the corner coming around from the channel into the boat basin until it?s too late.
?The fueling crews are having to steady the boats moored for fueling, and there is the danger someone is going to get hurt.?
Thompson said if boaters would just take the time to understand the dynamics of their vessels and be conscious of other boats and boaters, the problem would easily go away.