Park Service Proposes Watercraft on nearly all of Lake Powell

Park Service Proposes Watercraft on nearly all of Lake Powell

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Park Service said Tuesday that few restrictions should be imposed on personal watercraft at Lake Powell, a popular recreation area that straddles the Utah-Arizona line.

The environmental study for the lake said that just a few rivers should be closed to the watercraft for environmental reasons and that newer, cleaner engines should be required by 2012.

"These restrictions would reduce adverse effects on water quality, air quality and soundscapes" but still allow more recreational use than other plans considered, said the study, released by Kitty Roberts, superintendent of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, which includes Lake Powell.

The Park Service must still enact a rule to regulate the small, high-powered vessels, which are commonly known by their commercial names -- Jet Ski, WaveRunner or Sea-Doo. The rule is expected to be released later this summer.

The environmental study said that personal watercraft should be prohibited on parts of the Colorado, Escalante, Dirty Devil, and San Juan rivers and speed restrictions would be imposed on parts of the Escalante River.

"We understand that there are appropriate places for everything and we don't have a problem with some areas being set aside for people who want to do other kinds of activities," said Jeff Ludwig, of the Personal Watercraft Industry Association.

Sean Smith, public lands director for The Bluewater Network, which sued the Park Service to force the rulemaking, said more should be done immediately to bring in new technology and protect the air, water and serenity of the recreation area.

"We are not surprised by the Park Service's sell-out of Glen Canyon to the Jet Ski industry," he said. "The final environmental impact statement appears to be just another step in the predetermined process to force the thrillcraft back to Lake Powell."

Personal watercraft would have been banned this summer from Lake Powell, a manmade lake created by Glen Canyon Dam, but Bluewater Network struck a deal with the park last week allowing watercraft use through the end of the summer with restrictions similar to those outlined in Tuesday's study.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area spans 1.2 million acres in northern Arizona and southeastern Utah, with the 163,000-acre Lake Powell its primary feature. More than 2 million people visit the area annually. Watercraft account for about one-fourth of boat traffic in Glen Canyon.

The study said personal watercraft pollute the air and water at Glen Canyon and are noisy, but they do not do long-term damage to the recreation area and restricting them would cause irreparable harm to the businesses that rely on tourism dollars.

Restricting watercraft traffic in the rivers and requiring the newer, cleaner-burning engines by 2012 would reduce the air, water and noise pollution and benefit wildlife, the study said.

"This alternative was designed to meet the general management objectives of the National Park Serivce for protecting recreation area resources and values, while providing the opportunity for personal watercraft operators to enjoy water-based recreation," the study said.

The settlement of the lawsuit against the Park Service required similar environmental studies and rules at 15 other recreation areas. A rule for Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona and Nevada allows watercraft on 95 percent of the lake.

Work is underway on rules for the other 14 federal bodies of water, but personal watercraft is prohibited at those areas until the rules are complete. Those that have completed environmental studies have recommended continued watercraft use.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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