This is another one of those issues where the solution probably won’t please very many of the people involved.

It’s the request by the people who operate the Whirlpool Jet Boat attraction to extend its franchise. Its current permits allow it to operate through the 2008 tourist season.

The boats are a big tourist draw on both sides of the Niagara River. On our side, people can board them at Lewiston’s Water Street Landing. In Ontario, they catch the boats in Niagara-on-the-Lake. From there, they get a wet and wild ride while experiencing the rapids.

But some residents and riverfront property owners are less than thrilled. They claim the boats are noisy and the wake they cause disrupts other uses of the river, including boaters using the Youngstown Harbor. Environmentalists say there might be an erosion factor from the wake, although that has yet to be proved.

On the other side, the tourist trade would like to see the boat owners continue their business as usual. It’s become a big attraction and anything that shows visitors a good time and gets them to spend more time in the region bodes well for those who make their living in that line of work. The owners want to know they’ll be in business for the foreseeable future so they can make some $75,000 in improvements to their docking facilities.

The jet boat operators took it on the chin at recent public hearings held to air opinions on the controversy. Those expressing concern about the boats were in the majority, but this shouldn’t be the kind of debate that’s decided on the basis of turnout. There are legitimate issues on both sides of the philosophical fence and all of them need to be weighed fairly.

The attraction has been operating for 15 years. That’s more than enough time for all involved to have a solid grasp on what they find objectionable and what level of service is tolerable during the mid-April through mid-October operating season.

The boats have permission to operate through next year. We support their operation beyond that point.

But there’s a big ‘but.’ There are too many people expressing too much dissatisfaction to dismiss as just a bunch of negative Nellies. There are serious, legitimate concerns being expressed by many well-meaning citizens of both nations.

Those concerns need to be documented though video, audio and other means of study if they are to have any weight. The rest of June and July would be a good time to gather this evidence.

Then if a third-party mediator can be found who can present this evidence to the jet boat operators, they can determine what can be done to alleviate the problems.

Hopefully, by August, the two sides can reach a compromise that would extend the attraction’s operations while giving residents some peace of mind.

As we said at the start, that kind of compromise will make few people completely happy. But it will preserve a tourist attraction that has been proven very popular over the years. And it will do so while taking the concerns of its neighbors seriously.

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