North Idaho

St. Maries community fighting to 'Race the Joe'

ST. MARIES, Idaho - 'Race the Joe,' a highly anticipated racing event in St. Maries, Idaho, is in danger of being cancelled if organizers can't get a permit in the next week and a half. The organizers are saying that, permit or not, the show will go on.

This would have been the first time St. Maries hosted the 'Race the Joe' here on the St. Joe River. Last year they held a leg of the world races for the first time and based on that experience many people in town was excited to see the return of the jet boats.

"It was all just a plus, plus for the area. We had everybody from old grandmas to little kids jumping up and down on the shores and enjoying the heck out of the day," area resident John Walters said.

Race the Joe

"They use the river for part of the day, for two days, in exchange it brings suitcases full of money to this broke town," he added.

He was also planning on attending St. Maries' first ever 'Race the Joe' jet boat race to be held May 17 through 19 but the permit for the race was just denied by the Coast Guard because a small group asked for an environmental impact study at the last minute.

An environmental impact study takes 135 days to complete.

"One dissenter that sent an email that caused everything that's transpired since we were ready for the races," Walters said.

Without a permit organizers can't get insurance; without insurance the American Power Boat Association won't sanction the event.. Now businesses are starting to worry.

"A lot of businesses have gone out and done advertising and bought things in anticipation for the races that they're going to be out if it doesn't happen," Brian McGregor of Archies IGR and the St. Maries Chamber of Commerce said.

McGregor said last year's race brought in quite the buzz and the business to the town.

"We saw probably a 10 to 15 percent increase over last year," he said.

Now jet boat supporters are turning to their legislators for help to get the races back on the water.

"I think the small towns like this look at little events such as the jet boat races to drive people, tourism, into the community," McGregor said.

As for fans like Walters, he just doesn't want to see the town or the races dry up.

"I don't want to have to travel 30 miles to go someplace for a beer because our businesses are shut down from a lack of money to operate on," he said.

A decision by the Coast Guard is expected sometime this week.