LEBANON, Ore. — Sprint jet boat races are likely coming back to Lebanon this weekend after the State Watermaster gave the event a preliminary green light – despite neighbors’ concerns about their wells drying up.
The United States Sprint Boat Association is hosting the world championship event over Labor Day weekend, and says it will boost Lebanon’s economy. Racers from all over the world will be staying, eating, and shopping in Lebanon-area hotels, restaurants, and stores.
“Lebanon – being as depressed as it’s been – to be able to give them an economic boost is great,” said USSBA President Rick Harris. “We’re also involving the high school. They’re coming out to help us park and we give them a dollar for every car they park so we can help the sports out.”
Harris says he expects about 3,000 spectators.
The boat races will be on a track that uses about 350,000 gallons of water to fill up, then requires extra water that is lost from evaporation.
The State Watermaster ran tests on neighboring wells last week. Michael Mattick, the watermaster for the district, says the closest well to the race track is 55-feet deep. Last week, while the USSBA filled the rest of its track with water, Mattick says the water level in the closest well dropped 10 feet. He say neighboring wells will also likely see less water, but claims that the decrease is not significant enough to dry any of the wells up.
“I was very happy to hear that the impact was so minimal,” Harris said. “It makes what I believed all along. It just proved that to be true.”
One concerned neighbor, Darrell Barnard, says the data continues to worry him. He lives near the track and also uses a well.
“When you have a dry year like this, that means you have less water,” he said. “Water is an extremely precious resource.”
The watermaster is monitoring a water meter that is on site of the track to see how much water the USSBA is pumping into the track at all times. Mattick says the event will likely be approved, but may have some daily limitations on its water pumping rate.
“We’re not being told the truth,” Barnard argues. “The politics have gotten in the way of reality and truth. If we go dry – we got that problem on top of the fact that we can’t water our animals.”
Barnard says he supports any reason to boost the local economy – as long as it does not harm surrounding neighbors.
“I have no problem with them making money for a fun event,” he said. “But not at the expense of their neighbors. Choose your location wisely. Discuss it with your neighbors first.”
Harris says the USSBA plans to continue hosting events at the Lebanon site twice a year.
Another neighbor in the area claimed her well went dry during the USSBA’s first racing event in the neighborhood last month. Mattick says the resident has two wells on her property, and one has construction problems. He does not believe it went dry because of the racing event.
The races kick off on Saturday and run through Sunday. More event information is available by clicking here.