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Dear Editor:


The Niagara Heritage Partnership is a group of concerned citizens who advocate the preservation and restoration of the region’s natural environment and who encourage socially responsible development.  Since 1997, we have taken positions on a variety of issues, though our focus has been on parkway removal and the natural restoration of the Niagara gorge rim between Niagara Falls, New York, and Lewiston, New York, with hiking and bicycling trails.  We believe this would have great environmental and economic benefits to our region.  Details on this and other issues can be found at 


Since we view the Niagara gorge as a natural treasure, we were recently prompted to take a position regarding the lower river jet boat when we, as stakeholders, were invited by the Power Authority to take a ride on it, ostensibly for information gathering purposes.  We emailed a half dozen other stakeholders to inform them that the Partnership would not be taking the jet boat ride.  We said that many thought the jet boats were damaging to the environment: there were questions about erosion, the disturbance of shore nesting birds, noise and visual intrusions into the natural scenery of State Parks, disruption of smaller craft and of the lower river fishery.  We asked if an Environmental Impact Study had been done regarding the jet boats, and said that water drawn off above the Falls for power generation had probably made the jet boat ride possible in the first place, through greatly tamed rapids at Devil’s Hole State Park.  We did not urge other groups to boycott the ride.


On the morning of the boat ride, stakeholder James Hufnagel and friends unfurled a long white banner bearing the words “Jet Boats Suck!” at the river’s edge.  According to Hufnagel, this caused the loudspeaker of the boat to fall momentarily silent while the occupants gaped.


Later newspaper coverage either stated or suggested the Niagara Heritage Partnership had initiated and participated in the banner event, but this is not so.  The idea was generated and executed by Hufnagel, but we certainly agree with the sentiments expressed by the banner.  Jet boats do suck, and the banner provided a three-word summary of the concerns we’ve expressed here.  Not everyone embraces the idea of jet boats roaring up the gorge past several State Parks while blaring over loudspeakers. 


John Kinney, jet boat president, called the protesters a “vocal minority” and said they were “entitled to their opinions.”  This standard reminder of rights guaranteed to Americans is as unnecessary as it is patronizing.  The right to an opinion and the right to express it is a given, not a fact to be recited as a legitimate response to criticism.  Kinney calls riding in the jet boat “a participatory experience” and justifies the ride and loudspeakers in part because they “explain the whitewaters.”  What amusement park ride isn’t participatory?  And how many sentences does a whitewater explanation take, two?


He further stated that he was “unaware” of complaints about noise in the gorge, but that the jet boats don’t use the “loud hailers” near homes in the Youngstown-Niagara-on-the-Lake area.  The consideration of this vocal minority’s wishes is very thoughtful, but what about residents at other locations along the river?


The Partnership believes the jet boat rides will continue.  They are too much of a moneymaker to stop.  When making money is at odds with the natural environment, it is often the environment that suffers.  The villages and townships that so proudly include the jet boat rides in their television commercials also welcome the existence and expansion of huge landfills within their boundaries because of economic gain.  No town courts a landfill for altruistic reasons or because of its beauty.  A century from now the defining geographic feature of these towns will not be the beautiful river on whose shores they are located, but the enormous, lumpish landfills that rise high above the trees, unnatural swellings on the lake plains that will require monitoring in perpetuity. 


The jet boats are merely a symptom of a mindset that values money first and may not even have a second consideration.  Town officials seem cheerfully oblivious to the fact that this town-based business has a negative impact beyond town boundaries.  Similarly, it is nearly inconceivable that the company officials, after years of operation, have never had a thought that their jet boat and loudspeaker noise might be disturbing to gorge wildlife and to people who go there to enjoy a natural environment.  But if that is the case, now that it’s been brought to their attention, perhaps they will consider a sound system for the boats involving earphones for riders, which would at least eliminate the offensive sound of the “loud hailers” echoing off gorge walls.  It’s the most we can hope for.


Bob Baxter




f o r    g e n e r a t i o n s    t o    c o m e


Niagara Heritage Partnership

MPO Box 1495

Niagara Falls, New York 14302-1723