ALTON -- Over 200 area residents gathered at Alton Elementary School Aug. 7 because of their concerns about rumored changes regarding access to the Eleven Point River.
Personnel from the forest service, conservation department and water patrol answered questions about future plans, rules and regulations pertaining to the federally controlled portion of the river.
In October 1968 the Eleven Point River, from the Highway 99 bridge at Thomasville to the Highway 142 bridge, was designated a National Wild and Scenic River.
Because of this designation, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) District Ranger Jerry Bird explained that certain restrictions are enforced in order to maintain the scenic value and quality of the river. One of the restrictions that was an issue at the community meeting concerned the horsepower output of motorized watercraft.
The group was told of an incident that happened over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. One jet boat operator, not identified, was ticketed for operating a watercraft powered by a 40-horsepower (hp) motor.
The maximum horsepower allowed on the wild and scenic portion of the Eleven Point is 25 hp.
The boat operator contended that although the motor was marked 40 hp, when the jet unit was added, horsepower was cut to about 25 hp, and therefore legal.
District Ranger Bird conceded that this was a problem. The forest plan states that the horsepower is measured at the propeller shaft and that some manufacturers do have certified verification that altering to a jet unit does decrease output to around 25 hp. He recommended that all outboard motor users with altered engines carry manufacturer verification of horsepower decrease after alteration.
Another area of concern discussed at the meeting was the rumor that access to the river was going to be further limited. Bird was quick to point out that the only things happening on the river are improvements.
Any changes will be discussed in an open public planning process and we're not looking at doing that for the next two years," Bird said.