Jet boating on the Columbia (with video)? Heavens to Betsy!

David Adshead poses with the jet boat that has some people wondering about the environmental integrity of the Columbia River and the adjacent wetlands. David F. Rooney photo
David Adshead poses with the jet boat that has some people wondering about the environmental integrity of the Columbia River and the adjacent wetlands. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

If someone says “jet boat” to you what’s the first thing you think of? Those nasty, whining little jet skis you’d like to blow right out of the water? Or some testosterone-soaked boat jockey roaring through the water just inches away from the wetlands?

Those were certainly my first thoughts when I heard about David Adshead’s proposal to operate jet boat tours on the Columbia River between the Revelstoke Dam and Begbie Falls from the boat launch at Centennial Park.

But Adshead certainly doesn’t have a screw-the-environment attitude. If anything, he is open, thoughtful and concerned about the final destination of the developmental road Revelstoke has begun to travel.

After an interview with The Revelstoke Current on the weekend, the 39-year-old forestry contractor agreed to take me out on the river in his Harbercraft jet boat on Tuesday so I could judge for myself whether it was noisy and environmentally disruptive. In fact I made a video of his explanation and included a short clip of the trip up to the Revelstoke Dam so Current readers could judge for themselves.

The machine is 22 feet long and Adshead proposes to take parties of up to six people up to the dam and down to Begbie Falls. At 40 kilometres an hour (25 mph) the jet boat is not very noisy at all. In fact, as Adshead had asserted in our weekend interview, you can easily sit in the cockpit and have a normal conversation. No shouting. No headphones and mikes. Just a normal conversation. (You can readily hear that on the video, which is posted on the bottom of this story. However, I should mention that you will head a bit of a roar towards the end of the clip. That is due to the wind passing over my camcorder’s built-in microphone as I stood up to shoot our approach to the dam. It is not due to sound from the jet boat’s engine.)

He knows the river well and has no intention of going near the wetlands on the east bank of the river. On the way up to the dam we stayed within about 100 metres of the east bank until we were past the Trans-Canada Highway bridge at which point we eased back towards the middle of the river. Both banks there are rocky. BC Hydro has a sign posted about a kilometre from the dam warning boaters to approach no further. Adshead obeyed the sign and we headed back downstream towards Begbie Falls.

Again, Adshead stayed in the main channel of the river and at no time did he approach the wetlands on the east bank of the Columbia. While I am not qualified to say whether the wake of a jet boat moving at 40 kmph down the center of a river about 150 metres from shore poses an erosion threat, I am pretty sure that the vehicles we saw right by the river bank in the wetlands could not be good for the long-term integrity of the shoreline.

After our little trip I attended Council’s regular meeting as a Committee of the Whole where Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt attempted to introduce six motions calling on the City to work with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District to protect “ecological values,” educate the public, investigate who has jurisdiction over “activities on the reservoir,” investigate who has control over the public boat launches and work with the CSRD “regarding zoning the surface of the Upper Arrow Drawdown Zone.”

Council rejected all of proposals except the fourth, which asks City staff to determine who has jurisdiction over the Centennial Park boat launch.

All this furor was over Adshead’s request for a business licence to operate his proposed jet boat tour company. As Adshead himself admits, he has a lot of provincial and federal hoops to jump through before his business hits the water.

Does it pose a threat to “the ecological values” of our community? I’m no expert but I doubt it. Why not look at the video below¬†and judge for yourself?