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Posts tagged: st. joe river

Two conservation groups question Coast Guard’s turnabout on St. Joe jet boat race

Two North Idaho conservation groups, Friends of the Clearwater and the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, are questioning the U.S. Coast Guard's turnabout on permits for the upcoming “Race the Joe” jet boat race on the St. Joe River near St. Maries, allowing the race to go forward as scheduled May 17-19. “We’d like to know how the Coast Guard went from needing 130-something days to complete the environmental assessment to being able to complete it in a week,” said Brett Haverstick of Friends of the Clearwater. “With that kind of speed, the Coast Guard should consider entering the race.” Click below for the two groups' full statement.

Both Gov. Butch Otter and three members of Idaho's congressional delegation appealed to the Coast Guard to issue the permit in time to allow the event to take place as scheduled; Otter also sent a memo from Idaho Fish & Game saying the event wouldn't harm bull trout or bald eagles if organizers agreed to keep people and vehicles out of buffer zones around eagle nesting sites.

Governor, congressional delegation push Coast Guard to OK St. Joe jet boat race

Both Gov. Butch Otter and Idaho’s congressional delegation fired off letters to the Coast Guard yesterday pushing for approval of the jet boat race on the St. Joe River in North Idaho that had been scheduled for May 17-19 – until the Coast Guard launched an environmental assessment process that will take until long after the race date has passed. “We ask that you use your authority to issue the permit to allow the races to proceed as planned,” Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and 1stDistrict Rep. Raul Labrador wrote to Coast Guard Rear Admiral Keith A. Taylor. Wrote the governor, “Since the race is in less than two weeks, I am requesting the USCG use its discretion to assess the merits of the complaint and exercise its authority to issue a permit by May 10, 2013, to ensure that the race can take place.”

Both said the event had all its needed permits from the state and Benewah and Shoshone counties, but after a protest was received, the need for a Coast Guard permit was triggered – and the Coast Guard said it would take a 135-day environmental assessment before that could be issued. “This series of events has placed the race organizers in a no-win situation,” the senators and congressman wrote. “They did not need a permit from the USCB until a complaint was filed, and the complaint was not filed in time for the USCG to complete an environmental assessment so that a permit could be issued before the dates of the races.”

Otter attached a memo to his letter from Idaho Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore saying the proposed races wouldn’t have significant impact on bull trout; and potential impacts on bald eagle nests could be mitigated by setting up a zone around each nest site a quarter-mile in radius, on both sides of the river, where no spectators could gather or park to watch the race, and monitoring the nest sites both before and after the race.

Wrote Otter, “As you can see from the biological science, the jet boat race should be permitted if proper steps are taken by race organizers.” He argued, “The Race the Joe! Jet boat race has an important positive economic impact to the surrounding communities.”

The congressional delegation encouraged the Coast Guard to complete the environmental assessment for future events, but let this year’s race go forward. You can read the governor’s letter here, and the delegation’s letter here.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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