**Attention Oregon Boaters and Wakeboarders**
Please read the following and if at all possible clear your calender and try to attend the OSMB Meeting in Wilsonville Oregon on Monday, April 7, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Wilsonville Public Library, 8200 SW Wilsonville Rd.
**NOTE- The last paragraph for the Staff Recommendations. This was never the proposal of anyone from the Wake Group.
If you dont know where RM 31.5 at the upper end of Willow Island to RM 48.5 at the Hwy 219 bridge is.
Well....its the stretch of river from the corner by the Hollywood Video house down by Canby, to the Newberg- St. Paul bridge in Newberg. So basically a 12 mile stretch of river.
Wake Group report for the lower Willamette River
Wake Working Group
At the January 2008 Marine Board meeting, the Board heard discussion about
wakeboarding, boat wakes and related conflicts on the Willamette River. After
considering the discussion, the Board directed staff to convene a working group to
further explore the issue and determine if there was acceptable middle ground to help
The working group convened on February 12 in Wilsonville for the first meeting. The
working group included members of the wake boat industry, wake boarders,
waterfront homeowners seeking regulations restricting wakes, an angler, marine
board staff, local dock/boat house contractor, and county law enforcement. The first
meeting focused on outlining the basic issues and disagreements, potential solutions
and general discussion. Representative Jerry Krummel opened the meeting,
welcoming participants and thanking them for their time and interest. He encouraged
the group to work together and reach a solution that meets the needs of homeowners
while continuing to allow the public use of the Willamette River. An on-water
demonstration was set and the date for the final meeting was established. See the
attachment for names of attending individuals and more specific meeting notes.
The on-water demonstration occurred March 6. The event turned out to be more
complex than was expected and provided only limited data regarding boat wakes.
However, the event was useful to staff in comparing boat operation, observing wake
boat functions and capacities, and in seeing the effects of multiple boats operating in
a close area. Please see the attached Wake Working Group memo dated March 10 for
additional info. From this event, staff proposed a strawman framework for the March
12 working group meeting.
At the March 12 meeting, the framework was posted on the wall. The working group
was then asked to bring forward any proposals they had. The wakeboard industry
representatives listed a series of items which were generally modifications of the
framework. Homeowners seeking additional regulation were not unsupportive but
remained adamant that only a wake-device ban would actively address large wakes.
It should be mentioned that a letter-writing campaign to state legislators began about
the time of the final meeting. Pro-wakeboard individuals contacted 16 state legislators
stating their opposition to any restrictive regulations. The letter was based on
discussion points from the first meeting, not the proposals discussed at the final
meeting. Staff has contacted all legislators with a summary of the process to date. In
addition, about 15 waterfront homeowners who were against wakeboarding
restrictions were present at the final working group meeting and were given
opportunity to make comments.
Staff also notes the divisiveness of this issue. People on both sides of the issue have
expressed concern that they are not adequately represented or that the process was
unfair to their interest. Homeowners seeking regulation were specifically dissatisfied
with the on-water test and expressed concern that they were not sufficiently heard at
the final working group meeting. Staff had hoped for a more positive process and a
Wakeboard boats have internal ballast tanks that hold anywhere from 900 to 2000
pounds or more of water. Some wakeboard boats also have “wedges” or hydrofoil
devices deployed below the boat to provide additional downthrust. The average size
for wakeboard boats in Oregon is about 21' with some up to 24 and 25 feet long. They
require significant power to move the large mass through the water at such an angle
as to create large wakes.
Because the Marine Board does not register boats by model, we cannot accurately
account for the number of wakeboard boats statewide. However, there are roughly
3000 boats in the state that are 20 feet or longer and are manufactured by companies
who specialize in wakeboats. Nearly 2000 of these boats are in the Portland Metro
area. Only about 332 boats measure 23 feet and larger statewide, with about 188 in
the Portland Metro area.
Through this process it has become apparent that these boats are often operated over
capacity. The Coast Guard has a capacity limit on each boat that also includes the
ballast water. As an example, the boat we tested had a total capacity of 13 people or
1800 pounds, yet the ballast tanks held up to 1000 pounds of water. When fully
ballasted, there is only enough capacity for 3 people and gear. It is a common practice
to load wakeboats with additional people and gear, which, either on purpose or
incidental to the operation, creates a larger wake, especially if people are moved to
the back of the boat to exaggerate the plowing effect.
A relatively new device is the "wedge". This is a hydrofoil that drops below the boat
and creates an additional downthrust equivalent of 1000 or more pounds. According
to the Coast Guard, this device doesn't count against the boat's capacity. A Malibu 23
LSV weighs about 3900 pounds with a 50 gallon fuel tank and seating for 14 people.
It can be purchased with a 450 hp motor, 1350 pounds of ballast and the wedge that
creates another 1000 to 1250 pounds of downthrust. If even moderately loaded with
people and fuel, this boats can weigh upwards of 6,750 pounds without the wedge
deployed, or an equivalent 8,000 if the wedge is deployed. Staff was not able to find
independent data on wake size but websites recommend the rear-mounted wedge be
used to create larger wakes for advanced wakeboarding and wake surfing.
Industry marketing does not typically address legal operating capacity. One
manufacturer includes the following statement in the description of their 23 foot
wakeboard boat. “A 5.7L 325 horsepower multi-port fuel injected is standard, but the
bran new 6.0L 409HP GM Vortec engine might be the favorite option of riders who
fill the ballast bags and load the boat with friends and gear.” Aftermarket ballast bags
are available to increase the ballast on a boat. A search of used boat websites reveal
that some boats are retrofitted to where the ballast alone exceeds capacity. This fact
likely adds to the wake problems experienced by waterfront homeowners. It is likely
that wakeboats have peaked in size and weight – at least as fitted from the factory -
and industry is focused more on creating the best shaped wake at the best distance
from the boat.
For comparison, a comparably sized inboard aluminum fishing boat would be about
3000 pounds, plus the anglers. An average ski boat comes in around 2500 to 3000
pounds and 15 or 16’ fishing boats can be 1000 to 2000 pounds. Since wake size is a
function of displacement and speed, as well as hull design, heavier boats tend to
produce larger wakes.
Comparing boat operation side by side provides only a limited view of reality. The
Moomba wakeboat that was tested by staff produced a wake similar in size to a 22
foot North River jetboat outfitted for law enforcement. The boat was tested at legal
capacity and though measurements were not precise, both boats produced an 8 to 12
inch wake. However, wakeboard boats tend to operate in relatively small areas
making repeated passes back and forth. If the boat is used to pull an inflatable toy, it
is often operated in zig-zags or figure eights to maximize wake. The energy from the
wakes is repeatedly directed toward the shoreline. Fishing boats, cruisers and
commercial vessels tend to go from point to point with more limited operation. While
their wakes may be comparable in basic operation, their operation style likely creates
a much lower impact.
Homeowners seeking wake regulations have characterized this as an erosion issue
above all else. Staff would agree that increasing wake size contributes to erosion, but
there is no local data to determine the extent to which boat operation contributes. The
Marine Board would typically work with other natural resource agencies to devise
boating restrictions to address a boating-related environmental impact. However,
DEQ, ODFW, DSL and other agencies have no monitoring in place on this section of
the river, and there are no studies that provide a baseline from which to measure
erosion. Agencies were invited to participate, with ODFW and DEQ attending the onwater
exercise, but there has been no official input beyond that. ODFW has indicated
that this is not a significant biological concern, but is interested in activities that
promote a healthy aquatic environment, including placement of woody debris to
protect shorelines. Lack of a measurable environmental impact is particularly
awkward for the Oregon State Marine Board because it asks the Board to adopt
regulations addressing an environmental impact for which no state or federal agency
has quantifiable data supporting the claim, and the Board has no staff qualified to
estimate or quantify the claim.
Wake Group Discussion
A solution to eliminate any risk of erosion or dock damage from boats would be a total
ban on all motors on boats. This is unrealistic and was not supported by any persons on
the working group. A no-action alternative was supported by members of the public
attending the final work group meeting.
In general, there was support at the final wake group meeting for the following proposals
to address wake issues:
- Dedicated law enforcement, specially trained to recognize overloading issues,
alcohol abuse and unsafe operation, are needed. Officers are currently spread over
a large area and cannot adequately respond to these problems.
- Creation of a "Congestion Zone." This would designate the Newberg Pool of the
Willamette River a congestion zone and implement a series of regulations to
reduce wake size and conflict. While certain details were not hashed out, it
includes requiring straight-line operation (this reduces wake size), prohibiting
powered u-turns and figure eights, separating boats pulling tubers or boarders by
at least 200 feet (reduces wakes from stacking up), and prohibiting operation
within 100 or 200' of all docks.
- Enhanced outreach and education delivered in partnership with industry and the
Marine Board. This would include additional material in OSMB's mandatory
boater education program, creation of a low-impact boating publication for
distribution by dealers and boat educators, and other outreach activities.
- Use Oregon State University Wave Research Center student to assist in
monitoring actual wake hieght during summer boating season. OSU is interested
- Develop a reference library of credible studies and materials to better understand
these issues. It would be housed at OSMB.
- Poll all riparian landowners to determine perceptions of historical use patterns and
- Noise enforcement. Currently OSMB has no statutory authority to address stereo
noise. It was suggested that this be addressed legislatively. No one argued that
noise shouldn’t be addressed.
- Easing restrictions so homeowners can more easily armor the banks in front of
their properties. State and federal permits are difficult to get. There are quite a few
floating trees that could be affixed to shorelines to reduce wake impacts and
improve wildlife habitat. Industry willing to support. This could require
legislative assistance. Note - this is complicated, too. Studies show that armoring
a shoreline can, in some instances, increase erosion downstream. It needs to be
The following proposals were presented at the meeting by homeowners seeking
restrictions. They were accompanied by signed petitions with approximately 300
signatures (see attached).
- Prohibit use of all wake enhancing devices, including ballast tanks, foils or
loading passengers in a way intended to increase the size of the wake generated.
- Boats 22 feet and larger prohibited from towing devices (skiers, tubers, boarders)
- Beginning June 2010, boats over 3300 pounds prohibited from towing devices.
It should be noted that a group of 15 waterfront homeowners attended the final meeting
specifically arguing against any wakeboat restrictions. These people indicated that they
were not experienceing erosion issues and purchased their property specifically for
boating access. They did not want another group of landowners restricting their right to
access the river.
There are significant philosophical issues to consider when devising a response to this
situation. Staff believes it is possible to address the issue in a relatively simple way
through restrictive regulations – such as banning use of all wake enhancing devices. It
is also possible to address the issue through more intense outreach, education,
enforcement and a framework of regulation designed to shape all boat operation to
reduce wake size. The first option is simpler but at a larger cost specifically to
wakeboarders. The second option could only be successful with significant resources
(time and money) from the Marine Board and industry, and still with significant
restriction to the general boating public. Staff will therefore detail three options that
could be considered in various configurations.
Option 1 –
Board direction, no rulemaking
1) Direct Education staff to implement an outreach partnership with industry that
targets owners of wakeboard boats in Multnomah, Clackamas, Columbia,
Washington, Marion and Yamhill counties.
2) Direct Law Enforcement program to fund dedicated marine enforcement officer
limited to operation on the Willamette River Newberg Pool, with special training
in alcohol enforcement, boat overloading, wakeboard boat operation, wake
damage complaints and noise monitoring. Officer will be in place Memorial Day
weekend to Labor Day weekend, 4 days per week including weekends. Specific
emphasis on boat overloading and operation of boat with restricted visibility (bow
3) Partnership with OSU Wave Research Center to get baseline data on wake height
through summer boating period.
- Note: Economic impact of approximately $20,000. Could be defrayed by industry
Option 2 -
1) Initiate rulemaking for “Congestion Zone” designation, from the Hwy 219 Bridge
at RM 48.5 to the upper end of Willow Island at RM 31.5. Congestion zone
applies only to boats pulling towed devices. It requires:
a. Straight-line operation (powered u-turns and figure eights prohibited);
b. 200 foot separation between following boat with towed device and the
person being towed by the lead boat.
c. No towing operation within 100 feet of all docks.
d. Slow-no-wake zone from I-5 Boones Ferry Bridge at RM 38 and the
Railroad Bridge immediately up river.
2) Use in the congestion zone of hydrofoil or other external device designed to
enhance boat wake, whether towing or not, is prohibited.
Option 3 –
in lieu of Option 2
1) Designate Willamette River from the Hwy 219 Bridge at RM 48.5 to the upper
end of Willow Island at RM 31.5 as a congestion zone. Within zone:
a. Prohibit use of all wake enhancing devices, including ballast tanks,
wedges or hydrofoils or other mechanical devices, or un-even loading of
persons or gear to artificially operate bow high.
b. No wake surfing or wake boarding within 100 feet of all docks.
2) Slow-no-wake zone from I-5 Boones Ferry Bridge at RM 38 and the Railroad
Bridge immediately up river.
Options 1 and 2 best serve as a package for addressing wake complaints on the
Willamette River. This package addresses wakes created by all boats, not just
wakeboard boats. Additionally, it seeks to limit wake size created by externally
applied wake enhancement devices. To be successful, it will require significant
enforcement investments and extended outreach and education efforts. This will
create a significant workload for staff and, depending on industry contribution,
significant budget impacts given declining revenues. It is not feasible to implement a
statewide fee increase to fund a localized issue like this, and any fee increases would
require legislative approval through the 2009 legislative session, limiting
implementation for the 2008 boating season.
Option 3 is viewed as draconian by industry and wakeboarders who carry significant
investments in their wakeboard boats. However, option 3 doesn’t prevent use of the
boat – just the wake enhancing devices. Boats may continue to be loaded to capacity
with people and gear, allowing for the social event enjoyed by boaters. Law
enforcement is still problematic because certain wakeboats can be de-ballisted
instantly or in under a minute. Additionally, lead plates or other devices can be
employed to create a similar effect without use of ballast tanks and they will not be
readily observable during routine stops.
Enforcement for options 1, 2 and 3 are problematic in all respects given recent court
rulings requiring “probable cause” to stop or inspect a vessel. Officers may not stop a
vessel unless they observe an offense being committed. Wakeboats are stoutly built
and are not easy to visually determine if they are overloaded or not. Special training
for enforcement, including resource materials listing different types of boats and their
capacities, would need to be developed.
Not discussed is the size limitations proposed by waterfront homeowners seeking
wake restrictions. It is the opinion of staff that these larger boats are a small minority
and will be adequately limited by either option 2 or option 3.
Therefore, based primarily on the simplicity of the regulation and the fact that it
minimally restricts operation, staff recommends option 3, a prohibition of wake
enhancing devices, in the stated congestion zone.
Staff recommends that the Board release a draft rule for public comment, as follows:
Boat Operations on the Willamette River in Clackamas County
(3) No person shall operate a boat at a speed in excess of a “Slow—No Wake” maximum
5 mph speed on the following waters:
(e) From the I-5 Boones Bridge west approximately 1,700 feet to the Railroad Bridge.
(5) In the Willamette River from RM 31.5 at the upper end of Willow Island to RM 48.5
at the Hwy 219 bridge:
(a) boats are prohibited from using ballast tanks or bags, or mechanical devices including
wedges or hydrofoils, to increase the boat’s wake size.
(b) Loading of passengers at the rear of the boat to increase wake size is also prohibited.
(c) Wake surfing or wakeboarding within 100 feet of all docks prohibited.