GOLD BEACH Most of those who spoke at a state Marine Board public hearing Thursday night on banning motorboats from several small rivers in Curry County approved of the proposal.
Some asked that the ban be put into effect quickly. Wayne Shuyler, assistant director of the Marine Board, said he would like to return in the fall and observe the fishing before he makes a staff recommendation to the board.
The ban on motorboats would apply to the Elk, Sixes, Pistol and Winchuck rivers, and to Floras Creek. Most of those already have regulations banning jet skis or jet boats on all or some stretches of the rivers.
Besides the hearing, Shuyler had also been accepting written comments until Friday. He said his position is neutral at this time.
The petition to ban motorboats came from the Sixes River Alliance. Shuyler said state administrative rules allow any citizens group to seek rule changes with 10 signatures.
Boating on South Coast rivers is not a new issue, said Shuyler. He said there have been conflicts over boats and motors.
The petition claims motorboating provides an advantage in getting to fishing holes, said Shuyler. Some motorboats go back and forth between other anglers, causing conflict.
Conflict was Shuylers biggest concern. He said he hasnt yet researched all files for complaints, but has been warned it is a hot topic on the South Coast.
David Pesonen spoke for the Sixes River Alliance, an organization of eight families living in the watershed. He said hed lived there eight years.
Weve seen a dramatic increase in angler pressure on the Sixes and Elk rivers, he said.
Pesonen said he is not against fishermen. He owns a drift boat and enjoys fishing.
We all enjoy the river, he said, Thats why we live there.
Conflicts have increased over the years, he said. Hes seen some aggressive gunfire on his property, and has seen jet boats knock down waders.
People dont understand the etiquette of using motorboats on small rivers, he said. Pesonen does not object to motorboats on more suitable rivers.
The beauty of the Sixes and Elk rivers attracts visitors from all over the state, said Pesonen. He counted 100 boats going by his house during the Thanksgiving weekend, two of them motorized.
The motors gain an advantage on the drift boats, he said, The playing field should be leveled.
Doing so would let everyone enjoy angling, and would reduce conflict and eliminate any negative impacts of motors on fish, he said.
The petition got an overwhelmingly favorable response from residents on the river, said Pesonen. It also received 300 signatures from all over the state.
This is not a radical departure for your board, Pesonen said to Shuyler, A great many waterways regulate or restrict motorboats to avoid conflict and protect property.
You have a lot of public support, said Pesonen. That support was demonstrated by other speakers.
Jack Churchill of Agness said the carrying capacity of the Sixes and Elk rivers is being overrun.
The drift boats stack up waiting to get into certain fishing holes, and the motorboats come right through, he said, They step on the power and disturb the fishing.
Were just getting too many boats, said Churchill, The big jet boats just dont belong on these rivers.
Families come in just to jet boat on the Sixes and the Elk, said Churchill, Multiple use just doesnt work.
Bill Sweet of North Bend also supported the petition. He said the rivers are so popular that there are real conflicts that will get worse.
Kevin Shea, another member of the alliance, has lived on the Sixes for 10 years. He said he has a guides license.
These are very user-friendly rivers, he said. Shea rows the river twice a week and said he doesnt need a gas engine.
The shouting has increased each year, he said, This can only get worse.
Bob Van Leer, of Gold Beach, said, I dont like to see any citizens restricted from any resources of the state unless there is a really good reason to do it.
He asked if the ban on motorboats would eliminate public access to the Sixes and Elk rivers below the highway bridges.