LEBANON, Ore. — A group of residents say they’re not backing down in a battle against a sprint jet boat competition. Neighbors fought to cancel the event scheduled on Saturday and though the show still went on, they say the fight isn’t over.
Neighbors say they’re frustrated because after months of effort, they feel their words have fallen on deaf ears since the races continued on with no regards to their concerns.
While staff with the United States Sprint Boat Association (USSBA), the group hosting the event, say, “It’s a blast. It’s the wildest motorsport you’re ever gonna see,” neighbors beg to differ. They say the tracks use too much water to fill up the channels and the event is drying up their wells.
Neighbor Darrell Barnard says, “Nobody’s seen hide or hair of any of these people involved prior to the track going in.”
USSBA says it did reach out to residents, before and even now.
“Most of the ones I’ve spoken to, we’ve come to an understanding. We’re not here to create any drama or anything. We’re really trying to help this community,” said USSBA President Rick Harris.
Organizers say the competition is providing a needed economic boost, because their participants and spectators are coming in from all over to stay and spend their money in Lebanon and Linn County. But, residents question the event’s true value and impact, saying it could just cause more problems, such as traffic.
“It’s one day for them. It’s everyday for us. What is this going to affect? The mosquitoes with all the water? What kind of water damage is that doing to our aquifers? What other damage is this going to do? It’s one day for him. It’s the rest of the year for us,” says neighbor Becky Thompson.
Neighbors say the event is operating illegally and provided KEZI with a copy of a cease and desist order issued by the Oregon Department of State Lands on July 1 regarding excavation work on wetlands. Organizers say that issue was resolved. KEZI reached out to the office for comment, but have not heard back.
The organization will also be hosting the world championship event in Lebanon at the end of August, which is expected to bring even more people into town. Neighbors say despite the economic boost, they’re concerned about how much this could all cost them in the long run.