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Jul-07-2007 15:15printcomments

Sheriff’s Office Ends Willamette River Boat Towing

Damage to patrol boats means new policies for Willamette River patrols.

Boater on Willamette River in Salem, Oregon
No more free tows to shore for broken down boaters
Photo by: Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) - It is now the responsibility of boat owners to get their vessels free from sand bars or other problems on the Willamette River and back to the docks in a non-emergency situation.

It’s becoming a common scene on the Willamette River in Salem and the mid-Willamette Valley.

Boats and jet skis are running aground in increasing numbers due to low river levels and growing sand bars, experts say, and boat propellers are getting severely damaged from logs, vegetation and other debris floating in the river.

They say it can make it almost impossible for the boater to get safely back to the dock, or to to beach their boat on a sand bar or the shore.

Until recently, the Polk County Sheriff's Office river patrol has tried to help boaters get their vessels free and back to the dock.

That will no longer be the case though.

Polk County Sheriff Spokesman Dean Bender, says there are a couple of reasons for the new policy.

"First, if we were helping get a stranded boat free in Salem for example, and an emergency call came in for Independence, it would take too much time to get the boat we were towing to a safe location, then get underway to the Independence call. So to keep us free for emergency calls we will stop towing boaters."

Secondly he says, the two boats from the Polk Sheriff's Office have been damaged too often by rocks and other debris that was sucked up into the engines, or damage to the hull from running onto sand bars while trying to help stranded boaters. It has became a cost issue.

"We will still assist those on the boat and take them to shore, but it is now their responsibility to get their vessel unstuck and out of the water."

Bender did praise area boaters. So far this year the Sheriff's Office has yet to write a BUII (Boating Under the Influence) citation.

"They always do a good job around here of keeping alcohol off the water, and we hope that trend continues," he said.

Salem-News.com attempted to see what the Salem Fire Department’s policy on towing boaters was. Unfortunately our calls were not returned.

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Jerry July 10, 2007 5:35 pm (Pacific time)

On the other hand, why should the taxpayers bear the burden and cost of pulling people off of spots they never should have been? People need to take responsibility for their own actions. If they run their boat or "toy" aground, that is an issue for them to deal with. Too many people just jump into things without learning about it first. Take the boat slowly and you will likely see the low spot or the sunken tre before you hit it.

Benito July 8, 2007 9:31 pm (Pacific time)

yet another reason why the river needs to be dredged

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