Galice Mining District
Chetco River Vehicle Ban Draws Fire

Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer; December 21, 2012 11:04 pm

A group of more than 50 people descended upon Brookings City Hall Wednesday evening to express outrage and opposition to a group’s proposal that would ban vehicles from crossing or driving in the Chetco River.
 
Some likened it to a land grab or a taking of rights. 

“I’ve watched regulations get so strict on everything — fishing, hunting,” Richard Blazo said. “Bit by bit, they’re taking away our rights. Piece by piece, they’re taking away our rights. If we don’t do anything, we’ll be like the Soviet Union.

The proposal does not impact citizens’ access to popular river bars, such as Social Security, Redwood or Loeb Park, where they can park their vehicles on dry areas along the water.
 
The proposal focuses strictly on vehicles entering the water. 

People drive through and across the river for a variety of reasons: to gain access to hunting areas, to fish and — the reason it brought people from as far away as Grants Pass that night — to play. 
 
That playing in the river caught the attention of the Chetco Watershed Council, which submitted a request last fall to the Department of State Lands asking it to consider stricter regulations regarding vehicles in the river.
 
The group, of which about five were in the audience to defend themselves against comments ranging from ineptitude to birthplaces, is concerned about the “significant risk and harm vehicles do” in the pristine waters.
 

Watershed Council member Yvonne Maitland, who could hardly get a word in during the contentious meeting, noted in previous watershed meetings that there is no public benefit to driving in the river, that such activity is dangerous and destructive, spawning fish get crushed and that Brookings and Harbor have water intakes in the Chetco — and Harbor has no water treatment facility.
 
Interjections ran the gamut, and included questions of people’s birthplace, whether they were Native American, if America was becoming like the (former) Soviet Union, that some environmentalists are on the FBI’s most-wanted list; even al-Queda was mentioned.
 
Mayor Ron Hedenskog, who sits on the state’s Chetco River Rulemaking Advisory Committee,  addressed the crowd, saying the proposal’s wording had been changed to better reflect what he thought “would satisfy the best part of this group.”
 
However, everyone who spoke was against the proposed regulation, citing the trampling of rights, precedence, land takings and bogus science. Many said if current laws were enforced there wouldn’t be an issue. Some multi-generational families said they’d played in the river as kids, and it’s just as pristine today as it was then.
 
And many finished their comments to rounds of applause and whistles.
 

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