Proposed Marine Board Rule Threatens Boat Businesses

I have been designing, building, and testing all-welded aluminum boats for 40 years. It is my life’s work. My love of the outdoors motivated me to dedicate my life helping others explore it. I have navigated six uncharted river systems in the Himalayas, running rivers in Patagonia, and now train others to do the same.


My company’s headquarters is in White City. Oregon’s waterways easily stand up to those I’ve seen across the world, and they offer an amazing backdrop for testing the boats we build that serve thousands of customers each year.


Sadly, each year Oregon becomes less friendly to boaters and businesses like mine with increasing overregulation of our lakes and rivers. Now there’s another ordinance in front of the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) called a “narrative standard.”


The subjectivity of this citizen petition is over the top, especially for small business owners like myself who rely on access to local waterways in order to stay afloat and employ 20 people. If passed, I could receive a citation if the police think a boat I am testing is too loud, even if it’s within the legal decibel limit. The same would be true for local jet boat operators who bring valuable tourism to our area. Running a business under this much uncertainty is unacceptable.


Narrative standards also place an added and unnecessary burden on our law enforcement officers, forcing them to spend valuable time and resources responding to noise complaints based solely on the opinions of individual citizens. Speaking of law enforcement, in addition to the boats we make for the general public, over half our production is for government and law enforcement agencies. Those boats will be impacted by this too.


This citizen petition came about because one Portland jet skier who was disrespectful and inconsiderate on a small stretch of the Willamette River. The Portland waterfront homeowners behind this petition fail to understand the diverse nature of Oregon’s waterways and that what might not be appropriate on a busy Saturday afternoon on the Willamette is perfectly acceptable on Oregon’s remote waterways.


We have to think of all users and all impacts and consider the unintended consequences of this regulation. The increasing overregulation of Oregon’s waterways poses a real threat to local businesses like mine. In Oregon alone recreational boating provides $1.6 billion in annual economic impact and supports 5,993 jobs and 419 small businesses.


There are many established, fair rules to help keep us and our lakes and rivers safe. Our focus should be on abiding by the regulations that are in place. If we aren’t careful, boaters might find themselves without a waterway to call home.


On behalf of myself as a boat owner, my boat manufacturing business and my boating customers, I ask the OSMB to vote down the “narrative standard” at their board meeting on July 28.


Bruce Wassom is the Owner and President of Rogue Jet Boatworks.


This article originally appeared in the Medford Mail Tribune.

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