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Judge expected to toss jet boat suit

A legal effort to oust Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, a popular Niagara River attraction, from the Lewiston waterfront appeared headed for defeat last week.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. on Thursday denied a motion from the company and the Village of Lewiston to dismiss the suit filed by resident Jerome Williams, but only on the most technical of grounds: A copy of Williams' original complaint wasn't attached to the defense motion for dismissal.

Kloch gave John P. Bartolomei, attorney for Whirlpool Jet Boats, a chance to remedy that defect and return to court Dec. 1.

Attorneys on both sides of the case agreed that Kloch will throw out Williams' lawsuit that day.

Williams' attorney, Elizabeth Kraengel, said she expects Williams, a Niagara Falls businessman, will appeal.

"Jerry Williams is a boater. He's got a 46-foot powerboat. He thinks he owns the river," Bartolomei scoffed.

"That's not true. He's concerned with having the public enjoy the river," Kraengel responded.

Williams' lawsuit drew supporting affidavits from a local charter boat captain, as well as the Niagara River Anglers Association and its president, Paul Jackson.

They claimed the zooming jet boats hurt the fishing in the lower Niagara River.

Kloch called their claim "ridiculous."

Kloch said that by taking their argument about damage to the waterfront to its logical end, "Our country would still be populated only by Native Americans because nobody could have built a dock in Spain [for Christopher Columbus to sail from]."

Williams filed suit after the village, in January, approved Whirlpool Jet Boat's $1 million expansion plan on the riverfront.

His case tried to halt the expansion and challenged the village's 40-year lease of public land to the tour boat company.

Kraengel said New York State originally granted the village a riverfront easement for the purpose of public recreation. She said the easement actually expires before Whirlpool Jet Boat's lease, which runs out in 2042.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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