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Monday, December 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Two area jet boat races OK’d; permit still pending for Grande Ronde

Paul Brebner, left, of St. Maries,  and Logan Dianda, 10 of Medical Lake, watch the 2012 World Jet Boat Races from a railroad bridge April 15, 2012, above the St. Joe River in St. Maries. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Brebner, left, of St. Maries, and Logan Dianda, 10 of Medical Lake, watch the 2012 World Jet Boat Races from a railroad bridge April 15, 2012, above the St. Joe River in St. Maries. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Updated with clarification at the end.

WATERSPORTS -- With the start of the World Championship Jet Boat Marathon on the St. Joe and Coeur d'Alene rivers less than a week away, organizers still lack a key permit for the third leg of the race.

Federal wildlife officials continue to work on environmental analysis related to bald eagles along the Grande Ronde River, reports Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Before the U.S. Coast Guard can issue a permit for that leg of the race, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must determine the event either poses no risk to bald eagles or that risks can be mitigated.

Meanwhile, anglers and other river users should outings on the region's most prized fishing streams with attention to the racing calendar.

Here's the rest of the Tribune's update:

The series of jet boat races begins next Saturday with two days on the St. Joe River at St. Maries and will move to the Coeur d'Alene River May 24-25, before wrapping up with three days of racing in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley starting May 27. The first day in the valley features a race from Hells Gate Marina on the Snake River to Boggan's Oasis on the Grande Ronde. A second leg will return from Boggan's to Hells Gate.

The world championship cycles between Canada, the U.S., Mexico and New Zealand, with each country playing host every four years. It was last held in the U.S. in 2012, with legs on the St. Joe, Clearwater, Snake and Salmon rivers. The Grande Ronde is a new venue for race organizers and was added in part because the Clearwater and Salmon rivers are crowded with spring chinook anglers.

Inclusion of the Grande Ronde has elicited negative comments from some people who feel the river is too small and environmentally fragile for the powerful boats - some of which can easily exceed 100 mph.

Despite the pending permit for the Grande Ronde leg, event organizer Shirley Ackerman of St. Maries said she is confident the needed paperwork will be completed in time.

"Everything is being addressed, so we are excited for the races to be here very soon," she said. "We are all trying to work in partnership."

Leith Edgar, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Boise, said the work is going down to the wire because the agency only recently received an application from race organizers. It generally takes 60 to 90 days to process such applications.

"We got it a coupe of weeks ago," he said. "We are doing it in approximately half the time it typically takes us to do that and our biologists are going above and beyond to make it happen.

"We are optimistic, but we obviously have to make sure eagles will not be impacted and if impacts do occur that proper mitigation is undertaken in order to offset that disturbance."

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Laura Springer at Portland, Ore., said organizers of events like jet boat races need to be aware that environmental analysis is part of the permitting process and it can be time consuming.

"They are the biggest hurdles they have to deal with," she said.

After this story was initially posted, U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty officer David Mosely called on Tuesday. May 17, to clarify that the overall permit for all three races had not yet been approved.



Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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