Letter to the editor: The Wilderness Thriller Jetboat

ZZ Speedboat on river

Speedboat on river/photo submitted

The “speedboat” operation on the French Broad River has been approved by the TVA for the Army Corp to issue a permit for a speedboat dock requested by Wilderness Timeshares. This permit has been vigorously opposed by our Sevier County commissioners, Sevierville City commissioners, state representatives and a large majority of local citizens. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 33, Part 330.4, Section (e)(1)(2) require “cumulative” and “public” interest be considered in issuing a permit. The Army Corp of Engineers is disregarding this federal regulation as well as the other oversights of this operation. Citizens and public representatives opposition  are clearly “cumulative” and “public” interest.

The Army Corp of Engineers is a regulatory agency of the government and under 33CFR has to consider “cumulative” and “public” interest, including the economical advantages, the environmental concerns and the dangers that have been identified for this type of activity. If the speedboat dock is approved, there will be no oversight or enforcement of any regulations by the Corp of Engineers or the TVA.

According to the Tennessee Wildlife authorities and Coast Guard documents, these boats have been given status to operate in a reckless and negligent manner and there will be no patrols or enforcement of boating regulations concerning the operation of these vessels. Passengers will not be informed of the dangers of the speedboats. Unlike the lake setting, the river has no access areas should a boat capsize. Given the shallow waters and rocky shoals, a conventional rescue boat cannot be used. The water temperature is 50 degrees and hypothermia can occur in minutes. If a boat capsizes, people can be trapped. This has already occurred with one of the jet boats in Sevierville. The boat capsized with six people, putting five passengers in the hospital with injuries (reference Sevierville Police Report 201205201643, investigated by Officer Rebecca Cowan 5-20-2012).

There will be no oversight for maintenance, fueling of boats, waste disposal and limitations associated with the speedboat dock. The analogy is comparing building a highway and not posting speed limits or providing enforcement of rules and regulations. This is the “cumulative” and “public” interest responsibility of the government stated in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 33. When litigation occurs after someone is killed or seriously injured (and it has already happened) or property damage, people need to realize the Corp of Engineers, TVA, Wilderness Timeshares and the boat operator and Lt. Colonel that approves this can be enjoined for civil liability. The Corp of Engineers and TVA are bound by the Federal Tort Claims Act. Documents and photographs are available if litigation occurs.

Jerry Grubb

1435 River Dance Lane

Sevierville, Tenn.

(865) 254-8515

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