Draft study looks at horsepower motors on Kenai River

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- A study has found that at full throttle, some popular boats produce smaller wakes with 40- or 50-horsepower motors than boats with 35-horsepower motors, the maximum allowed on the Kenai River.

The 35-horsepower limit was imposed in the mid-1980s to in response to large, fast boats that were dangerous on the river and whose wakes eroded the riverbanks, according to Jim Stratton, director of the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. The limit slowed the boats, he said.

''Now, it's a fine-tuning thing,'' he said. ''Is 35-horsepower the right horsepower to produce the smallest wake?''

Members of the Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board urged the public not to jump to conclusions from the study.

''There are a couple of ways to get at less wake -- less load, hull design, horsepower,'' board chairman Ted Wellman said. ''The board's goal was to look at all the factors that have an effect on wakes -- hull design, loading and horsepower -- and once all those things are considered together, to make some policy recommendations that make some sense.''

Alaska State Parks and the Alaska district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asked the Corps' Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss., to study factors affecting wakes on the Kenai River. Last summer, researchers ran several boats with different motors and payloads past wave gauges on Johnson Lake in Kasilof and on the Kenai River.

Besides the horsepower effects, the researchers found that adding weight produced larger wakes.

With 35-horsepower motors running at full throttle, V-bottom boats produced larger wakes than flat-bottom boats of similar weights, the Peninsula Clarion reported.

Joe Connors, president of the Kenai River Professional Guides Association, said he's argued for years that with 35 horsepower, Kenai River boats are underpowered. He favors raising the limit to 50-horsepower.

''I don't think we want to take the limit off, because at a certain point, there would be an intimidation factor,'' he said. ''The range between the slowest and the fastest boats isn't more than 15 miles per hour, now, but if you take it off, the difference could be 50 miles per hour.''

Wellman said the KRSMA board wants to study the draft report and hear from its author before trying to make policy recommendations.

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