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Senate Panel Oks Jet Boat Access In Hells Canyon

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved Sen. Larry Craig’s bill to guarantee jet boaters access to the inner reaches of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

Craig said a ban during some days of the summer clearly contradicts the 1975 legislation creating the recreation area, which recognizes powerboating as a legitimate use of the Snake River.

“It seems to me the Forest Service is caving in to a small minority who doesn’t want to share the river,” Craig said Thursday.

Four months ago, Forest Service officials said they would not try to prohibit jet boats from a 21-mile upper stretch of the canyon for 18 or 21 days each summer.

The agency still required owners to sign up for limited numbers of permits to run the wild section. The permit system is the first time their numbers have been limited.

Craig noted most of the rivers in the federally designated Wild and Scenic River system in the West already are reserved exclusively for nonmotorized rafts and kayaks. Other than Hells Canyon, powerboating is allowed on only limited portions of the Rogue and Salmon rivers.

The U.S. House Resources Committee earlier passed Republican Helen Chenoweth’s companion bill.