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Current News & Issues: Trails & Recreation


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Alturas Lake
Quiet Alturas Lake

Since 2003, personal watercraft ("jet skis")
have been banned from Alturas and Pettit Lakes
in Blaine County, bringing peace and quiet
to these beautiful places.

Update 2008: This summer will be another quiet one, at least from personal watercraft noise at Pettit and Alturas Lakes. Unfortunately, the use of noisy personal watercraft at Redfish Lake and Stanley Lake in Custer County near Stanley, is still allowed.

Here is the history from 2003: A personal watercraft ban on Alturas and Pettit Lakes in the Sawtooth Mountains, was proposed by Blaine County commissioner Sarah Michael. Complaints on personal watercraft, usually called Jet Skis which is a brand name, are common due to noise, air and water pollution, safety issues and intrusion on waterfowl.


On May 22, 2003, the Blaine County Commissioners unanimously passed a personal watercraft ban on Alturas and Pettit Lakes in Blaine County. The ban took effect in summer 2003. The Idaho Mountain Express provided an excellent look at the issue "Blaine County institutes Jet Ski ban" by by Matt Furber, Express Staff Writer. READ FURBER'S STORY.


Pettit Lake
Pettit Lake

Alturas and Pettit Lakes are in Blaine County, within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). The SNRA was created in 1972 to protect natural, scenic, historic, pastoral and wildlife values. Some quiet users of the SNRA, including Commissioner Michael, see personal watercraft as noisy water toys that are undermining the SNRA’s values. The battle is on.

The first public meeting to limit the machines was in Hailey on April 28th. According to reporter Greg Stahl’s article on April 30, 2001, in the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper, 50 people attended and 20 spoke in support of the ban, and three against. One speaker, Tom Heinrich, said that the Hailey airport has a standard of 65 decibels for aircraft. Jet skis are said to operate from 70 and 90 decibels.

Two other lakes that are used by personal watercraft in the SNRA, Redfish and Stanley Lakes, lie within Custer County. At Stanley Lake, jet skis are banned between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. In Idaho, counties have authority to regulate the craft’s use on lakes within their borders.

There are three SNRA lakes reachable by vehicle, which limit or ban motorized use: Little Redfish, Yellowbelly, and Perkins Lakes.

Here are issues that we urged people to comment on to the Blaine County Commissioners in support of the jet ski ban. Also, to attend the May 21, 2003 meeting in Hailey. Our long personal experience at Alturas and Pettit Lakes (and Redfish and Stanley Lakes) with these machines has been negative. Please share your experiences. Here are some points:


1. Noise - Often we have thought that people coming from the city, would have more peace and quiet and cleaner air if they stayed at home – rather than contend with the constant presence of jet skis at Alturas, Pettit, Redfish and Stanley Lakes. Unlike water ski boats, that retire to shore when the wind comes up, jet skis revel in jumping waves, especially close to shoreline. There’s no peace – calm or gale

2. Air pollution - At Pettit Lake, the personal watercraft’s sound and smell can be heard from two miles up Alice Lake trail in the Sawtooth Wilderness. The Wilderness is a Class 1 air shed, hence has to meet federal air quality standards. On some days, when jet skis are roaring across Pettit Lake, it’s possible they are polluting the Sawtooth Wilderness air.

3. Safety – The American Canoe Association has published a report "Hostile Waters – The impacts of Personal Watercraft Use on Waterways Recreation". Jet skis are involved in 55 percent of all vessel collisions on U.S. waters while making up only 6.2 percent of vessels. Jet skis also collide with water skiers, swimmers, wind surfers and docks. The Hostile Water report along with jet ski fact sheet can be viewed at:

4. Impacts to waterfowl – When we visit any of these lakes before the jet ski season starts in June, there are many species of ducks and geese on the water and along the shore. However, many of these birds are chased away by the noise, gas fumes and wakes caused by jet skis – especially since the machines are often operated next to shore to jump waves. The SNRA should better fulfill its mandate to protect wildlife on these lakes.

5. "More regulation" - One argument that always arises in the motorized versus non-motorized controversy, is that regulating machines, somehow violates civil liberties. Rather, it’s machines and noise violating our right to the pursuit of quiet lakes, free from noise, air and water pollution.

Contact Blaine County Commissioners
206 1st Ave S. Ste 310, Hailey, ID 83333
Phone 208/788-5500.
Next meeting: 6:30 p.m., Wed. May 21, 2003.
Old County Courthouse, Hailey.

For more pro-jet ski information visit:

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