LETTER: Misleading Information About Whitefish River Motorized Use

By Beacon Staff

If you have been following the articles proposing to designate the Whitefish River as non-motorized, you have not been getting the straight story.

Recent newspaper articles have more than suggested that the FWP (Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks) supports the non-motorized designation proposed by the city of Whitefish. This is misleading if not completely untrue. The FWP has only agreed to allow the process to move forward with a public comment period. FWP told me they continue to believe that a non-motorized designation is unjustified on the basis of resource protection or public safety.

One article stated that the Whitefish River could become the only non-motorized waterway in the state. That is not true. There are numerous existing non-motorized waterways including portions of the Flathead River.

The Whitefish City Council built support for their non-motorized proposal based on exaggerated claims that there was considerable motorboat use and that much of it violated the no-wake rules and caused safety concerns and stream bank erosion. Now that they have not been able to convince the FWP on those reasons, they are now pushing it on the basis of “local social desires”.

My home fronts on the Whitefish River downstream of the Columbia Street bridge. We have lived there over five years and have yet to see a single violation of the no-wake rules. We view the river daily and probably see fewer than five motorboats per month. These are all small boats limited to the spring-summer season when the water level is high enough to float. They are usually early morning fishermen that are off the river before the recreational floaters show up.

Part of the appeal and value of our property is that we can occasionally motor my small watercraft slowly upstream all the way to Whitefish Lake. Under the proposed change, that would no longer be possible. An electric motor does not have enough power to push my canoe through the fast water under the Spokane Street bridge. So those who think allowing electric motors will appease the motorized users, need to consider this fact.

In summary, there is no justification to make any changes to the public uses allowed on the Whitefish River. There is still plenty of room for all existing uses to continue as they are. Throughout its entire length, the Whitefish River is a public waterway that belongs to all the people of Montana.

I hope this information is helpful to you and that you let the FWP hear your voice during the upcoming public response period.

Brian Woodward

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