LEBANON, Ore. — Sprint jet boat races are coming to Lebanon this weekend – something that organizers say will boost the area’s economy. But neighbors are fighting to cancel the event – worried about the amount of water the site is using.
The United States Sprint Boat Association is hosting the event on July 26, and says it will bring 1,500-2,000 viewers to Lebanon.
“It’s huge – I mean the economic impact that we’re going to bring into Lebanon,” said USSBA President Rick Harris.
The organization is also hosting the world championship event in Lebanon again at the end of August – bringing even more people to town. Neighbors say despite the economic boost for the local area, they are worried how much it will cost them in the long run.
“It’s going to boost the economy – and that’s a good thing,” said neighbor Darrell Barnard. “Lebanon could use it. That’s true, I can’t deny that. I’m all for capitalism. But not when it’s at the expense of your neighbor.”
Barnard and a group of his neighbors living around the track on Airport Drive in Lebanon have wells, and they worry that the event is draining a huge amount of water from their water source.
“If they go out of water – what do we do?” he said. “And it seems that it wasn’t taken into consideration by the people putting in a track over here. It was more what suits them rather than talking to your neighbors.”
Barnard says within the last week, two wells in the area have dried up – something that could cost homeowners thousands of dollars. Linn County Commissioner John Lindsey says the state water master will be investigating to verify the claim, and if true – why the wells have dried up.
Barnard lives in an agricultural area, and he and his neighbors raise various livestock.
“You’ve got to have water,” Barnard said. “You can live without food for a number of days, but you can’t live without water. Our animals, they can’t live without water. They’ve got to have it.”
The USSBA says it has used 350,000 gallons of water to fill up its track, and will need to use 5,000-8,000 extra gallons a day to make up for water that has been lost due to evaporation.
“When we pulled the well out, our ground water was at about five and a half feet below the surface in the well head,” Harris said. “So I’m not real sure how their wells went dry because ours hasn’t changed since day one. It’s still at the same level.”
Meanwhile, neighbors still are not convinced, and are meeting with county commissioners to fight back. They hope the event is either cancelled or moves to a different location.
“It happened at the same time,” Barnard said about the wells drying up. “And that’s where I have to say that it’s not really coincidental.”
Commissioner Lindsey says the USSBA has legally followed the process to host the event, and that the state water master has capped the amount of water it can use each day.