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Group Sues Over Jet Ski Ban at Lake Powell

Group Sues Over Jet Ski Ban at Lake Powell

Posted - Apr. 6, 2003 at 4:15 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Small-business owners and recreation organizations filed a federal lawsuit seeking to avert a partial ban on personal watercraft at Lake Powell's tributaries.

The lawsuit challenges a settlement between the conservation group Bluewater Network and National Park Service that would ban personal watercraft from parts of the Colorado, Escalante, Dirty Devil, and San Juan rivers.

The deal also seeks to impose speed restrictions on parts of the Escalante and Dirty Devil rivers.

Bluewater Network had sued the park service over proposed rules for personal watercraft in several national parks.

Stephan Andranian, government affairs manager with American Watercraft Association, said businesses owners and advocates of open access to federal property will file for an injunction to open the waterway until arguments can be heard in court.

"There's a number of different issues and it's a shame we have to do this, because from my perspective, with a correct amount of focus," no suit would be necessary, Andranian said.

Cher Obergh, spokeswoman for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, said the suit was handed over to the U.S. Attorney's office. She had no comment.

Critics of the park service say jet skis have no worse effect on Lake Powell than speedboats, which are allowed.

Bluewater Network "vastly overstated" personal watercraft impact on the lake, said Brian Hawthorne of Utah Shared Access Alliance.

"The settlement, the way it was, is kind of de facto -- it changed the park service rules without being really legal," he said.

Kent Ahleen, general manager at Stephen Wade Powersports, said even the threat of a ban on personal watercraft affected sales last season.

"We are looking forward to a better season, however, with the opening of Sand Hollow and because people are realizing there are a lot of alternatives to Lake Powell here in southern Utah," Ahleen said.

Smith said four-stroke engines of personal watercraft create no more pollution than regular boats. But most jet skis are powered by two-stroke engines that emit more unburned fumes.

Regardless of engine type, Smith said jet skis "disproportionately affect the wildlife." They can travel into shallow water, disturbing fragile marine life and scattering fish, he said.

Officials in the Park Service acknowledge a whole season could be closed to personal watercraft, but believe there is a chance at saving the season.

"We are hoping, hoping to get the final (environmental impact study) out next month," said Obergh, who didn't know what conclusion the study will reach.

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

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