Federal officials have warned the Oregon State Marine Board that wake surfing on the Willamette River could pose a serious risk to threatened salmon and steelhead populations.
Critics say the board’s failure to restrict this controversial water sport could leave the state in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
The Marine Board has been considering new regulations for wake sports that create large waves on the Willamette River. Wake surfers use big, heavy boats to create waves that are big enough to surf.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently sent a letter to the marine board’s chairwoman flagging the problems those waves could cause for five species of salmon and steelhead that are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Marc Liverman, NOAA’s Willamette River branch chief, said the young fish that are most vulnerable to wake surfing waves are only about an inch long.
“This kind of wave action is not a typical thing that they face,” Liverman said. “The most dramatic danger for the fish is wake stranding, which is when they get tossed up on the shore.”