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Letter: We need to stop jet boats that are polluting gorge

We need to stop jet boats that are polluting gorge

I detest the jet boats on the Niagara River, especially in our three state parks along the gorge. If people must spin around and scream on the water, go out on the big lakes where the wakes, erosion, noise and diesel pollution at least can be dissipated. In the steep narrow Niagara Gorge, all of these negative impacts are magnified.

On the U.S. side alone, over $1 billion has been spent on restoring the river as a globally significant Important Bird Area and fish habitat. Add another half billion dedicated to Niagara Greenway projects, including increasing public recreational amenities like fishing and bird-watching and restoring habitat for the plants and animals that sustain these public recreational uses.

“Habitat” means natural space along the river corridor where plants and animal populations can survive and thrive. Quality habitat requires safety, including freedom from disturbance so precious energy is not wasted in constant flight. Quality habitat requires stability of riverbank and shallows where eggs can be laid and young can be raised. Without breeding and nursery areas, fish and shorebird populations crash.

I have watched the herons, osprey and terns resting along the lower river harassed by jet boats, more or less constantly in jet boat season. I have seen how the undercut soft Queenston shale clouds the shallows and likely the egg nests of bass and walleye whose rates of reproduction are low. I have learned from botanists of the disappearance of rare plants in the gorge from the collapse of the substrates that supported them.

The jet boat industry’s intrusive use of the Niagara Gorge and our state parks is a taking – an illegal appropriation of a public trust for private profit – and it should be stopped now.

Neil Schmitz