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Jet boat operator eyes route to the Horseshoe Falls

The turbulent waters below the Horseshoe Falls could get a little congested next summer.

A U.S. company plans to run a jet boat from Youngstown, N.Y., to the base of the Horseshoe Falls starting in June 2015.

Currently, Niagara Jet Adventures runs jet boats to the Niagara River gorge, similar to what’s offered at Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours.

What co-owners Chris Bohnenkemp and Mike Fox want to do, however, is extend the route to the Falls.

“This has been part of our business plan for the past two years as we got Niagara Jet Adventures going,” the Idaho boat builder told The Review.

“From the get go, that has always been our goal…to offer a service from our marina to the bottom of Niagara Falls.”

Bohnenkemp has completed more than a dozen test runs this month from the U.S. marina to the Horseshoe Falls aboard a three-engine, 33-foot boat.

“It was beautiful. It’s one of the coolest things you’ll ever see,” he said, recalling his first time navigating the boat to the base of the falls.

The public tours will use two four-engine, 45-foot boats that are currently under construction.

“We’ll offer a ride that takes you through Devil’s Hole and through the whirlpool and past the Class 6 rapids to the Horseshoe Falls,” Bohnenkemp said.

“We’ll have an observation deck where people can get out, just like they do on the Maid of the Mist and Hornblower, and take pictures.”

Bohnenkemp said no permits are needed to make the trip as no one, essentially, owns the Niagara River.

“It’s going to be super safe,” he added. “We won’t put anyone in a situation where they are at risk. It will be a very safe endeavor.”

While he doesn’t need a permit, he will need a licence to operate a chartered vessel as required by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Bohnenkemp said he has made Hornblower Niagara Cruises and Maid of the Mist aware of his business plans.

Terry MacRae, CEO and chairman of Hornblower Inc. could not be reached for comment.

Bohnenkemp said there’s room on the river for another tour boat.

“What we’re looking for is the same opportunity that everyone else has been given.”

The Niagara Parks Police and New York State Parks Police have also be notified.

NPP Chief Carl Scott said he is aware of the enterprise and has been in touch with the U.S. Coast Guard.

“My concern, at this point, is centered around our ability to provide any meaningful support to any incident that happens in Class 6 rapids,” the chief said.

“We don’t have the ability to operate in that environment.”

While police would respond to any emergency, Scott said the agency “would be limited in our ability to respond in that body of water.”

Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard were not available to comment.

by Alison Langley 

Source: Niagara Falls Review