OPINION: THE STIGERS and THE STAFFORDS — Wake-up call on the river

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RiverFriends2019 is a group that has been formed to alleviate the safety and erosion issues on the Spokane River in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls. The group was formed to arrive at consensus regarding the causes and to find a solution to decrease these two major issues.

A letter was sent out to river dwellers requesting input to find out what they thought. The answer was overwhelming: Make the wake boats stop wake surfing on the river.

The river is very narrow and shallow, making the wakes incredibly dangerous for a child standing on a dock, a kayaker, a paddle boarder or even a boat trying to pass. One RiverFriend told us, “My 18-month-old granddaughter was swept up off the dock caused by a wake boat surfing.” A wake boat can wash a 60-plus pound item off the dock (a typical 9-year-old weighs 62 pounds). The wakes are so strong, it causes tremendous erosion on the banks of the river, causing some to lose 4 to 6 feet of their bank. With the river being so narrow and shallow, even if the wake boats surf in the middle of the river, the force of the wake causes safety and erosion issues beyond belief.

Currently there is a no-wake zone of 100 feet on the river, which is not sufficient. The majority of the members of RiverFriends2019 want something done, and done quickly. They think that wake boats should wait until they get to the lake to fill their ballast, so people can surf behind the boats.

If you read the ads for new wake boats, they promise to make wakes “as big as the ocean.” We do not want or need that. There has been a steady increase of wake boats each year. The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Marine Division’s charter is to make sure all boats are 100 feet away from the shore, but that does not solve the problem.

Even on the lake, the 200-foot wake zone is not sufficient to solve the safety and erosion concerns. Many bays on the lake are having the same problem as we are on the river. Like any sport, wake surfing needs to be managed in a way that benefits the surfer, but doesn’t injure the environment and the people who live here. Regular ski boats and the like do not cause the erosion or safety issues like the wake boats that are surfing.

One thing is for sure — the RiverFriends2019 do not want the river to be a total no wake zone. What we want is for the wake boats to wait until they get to the lake to turn on the ballast and do wake boarding and wake surfing. When they get to the lake, they need to continue to follow the rules. Some states are working on banning wake boats entirely on all of their waterways. Will Idaho do that? We will see?

What can you do? Email or write a letter to the county commissioners asking them to help us solve this problem. Join RiverFriends2019 by emailing us at RiverFriends2019@gmail.com.

The safety and erosion issues have to be addressed and solved one way or another. We don’t want to wait until a tragedy occurs; we want to solve the problem in 2019.

• • •

Susan and Bob Stiger

Avis and Jim Stafford

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