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Debate continues over whether jet boats should be allowed on Upper Rogue River

a river with green forested hills on either side
U.S. Forest Service
The Upper Rogue River on June 24, 2008

Jet boats provide high-speed, thrill-seeking experiences for tourists on waterways like the Upper Rogue River. A conflict over the use of these boats has arisen over the years.

Should four state agencies enact new regulations on the use of jet boats on around 30 miles of river north of Medford? That’s the question being asked at a series of community meetings since mid May.

Some community members are hoping to ban the use of these boats, claiming they’re unsafe for other river users and disruptive to salmon populations.

Frances Oyung, the program manager at Rogue Riverkeeper said they’re concerned about the frequency of these high-speed jet boats, and how they’ll impact salmon populations (Oyung is a volunteer with JPR Music).

“The reason that Chinook and coho and the sea-running fish are threatened and having problems sustaining their populations is not because of one big event," Oyung said. "It's because of all the little events we do.”

A 1994 study on jet boat impacts in Alaskan streams suggest that high-level use in shallow streams can threaten the survival of salmon eggs.

Taylor Grimes is the owner of Rogue Jet Boat Adventures, which operates out of the TouVelle State Recreation Site in Central Point. Grimes said if people knew more about jet boats, they’d know they don’t pose a danger.

“I just think it’s a perception thing," he said. "And then I think intertwined in there is some people that are just really uneducated.”

For example, Grimes said they record every boat trip in the event of any safety issues, and jet boats are highly maneuverable and can stop very quickly. He added that jet boats operate in shallower waters and don't disrupt the underwater environment as much as boats with external propellers.

The four agencies that include the Oregon Department of State Lands, the Oregon State Marine Board, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, are gathering public input through an organization called Oregon’s Kitchen Table. One final community meeting is scheduled in Medford on Monday, June 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the Medford Library.

After an online survey closes on July 5, the agencies will figure out if they need to enact new rules to restrict recreational usage on the Upper Rogue River. A report from Oregon's Kitchen Table on the community meetings is expected in early August.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.