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Commissioners working on new waterways ordinance in Valley County

If approved, the ordinance would create 300-foot no-wake safe zones in both Lake Cascade and Payette Lake.

BOISE, Idaho — Valley County commissioners are working on drafting an ordinance that would put in certain restrictions along waterways - specifically Lake Cascade and Payette Lake.

The new ordinance will actually replace one that had been in effect between 2008 and 2018, but was rescinded due to an administrative error.

The purpose of the new regulation is to make sure all different kinds of recreationists can use the lakes and enjoy them.

“As a whole, I think it’s a very good first start,” said Gary Lyons, who lives along Payette Lake in McCall. 

The ordinance calls for a no-wake safe zone that extends 300 feet from the shorelines of both Lake Cascade and Payette Lake.

“The 300-foot [zone] allows for other users to be in a safe zone in my opinion around the perimeter of the lake,” Lyons said.  “You have swimmers, you have kayakers, you have paddleboarders, you have sailors, you have kids playing out in the water you have a lot of users that could operate in that zone.”

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There are some exceptions where the no-wake safe zone is 100 feet from docks, structures, and people in the water.

Also included in the ordinance will be a no-motor-vessel restriction for the North Fork Payette River, between Lake Cascade and Payette lake.

Commissioners say the 300-foot safe zone will help protect both the shoreline and the docks from being damaged by the waves created by wake boats.

“The 300-foot is a good number;” Idaho Water Sports general manager Justin Harrison said. “It doesn’t cut the lake down and now we’re not limiting the narrow part of [Payette Lake].”

While he approves of the 300-foot safe zone, Harrison has issues with other sections of the planned ordinance, including possible ramifications for someone who creates a wave that causes damage inside the safe zone.

“Anytime you get inside that, if you upset somebody, you’re liable for anything that happens to them because of a wake,” he said.

He’s referring to the section that defines what an excessive, dangerous, or damaging wake is.

Because of the language in the ordinance, if a wake that is produced outside of the 300-foot safe zone causes damage within the safe zone, that could be considered a damaging wake.

Commissioner Dave Bingaman told KTVB this definition came about because of the 300-foot safe zone.

“So rather than try to put a limit on the size of the wake people could generate, that’s not what we were trying to accomplish,” he said. “What we were trying to accomplish is kind of like a speed limit, a reasonable and prudent guide that people would use.”

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Harrison tells KTVB he doesn’t want the county commissioners to vote on a big issue when people aren’t allowed to attend the public meeting due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would like them to wait,” he said. “I would also like them to clarify their sections of that ordinance that are kind of up in the air as to how they’re going to be able to change things without public input.”

The part of the ordinance he’s referencing pertains to the ability of commissioners to restrict certain uses on Payette Lake and Upper Payette Lake through a resolution. This means there would be no public hearing.

Bingaman said that section will be revised. He said any big changes like restricting what people can and can’t do on certain waterways would go to a public hearing first before changes are made.

He said the language of that section was meant to allow commissioners to include a boating map, which will be put together this summer. The commissioners plan to include the map with the ordinance by passing a resolution.

As for public input on the ordinance, residents can mail, fax, or email comments through close of business on Wednesday, May 20. They can also call into the public hearing scheduled for May 26 at 1 p.m.

“The way we’re asking people to do that is get in touch with our court clerk and he will set up the folks that want to speak with a phone number to call in and set them up with a time,” Bingaman said.

The clerk’s office can be reached at (208) 382-7102.

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