Jetski deadline extended at eight National Park Service recreation areas

Poor quality environmental reviews cited

provided by National Trails and Water Coalition

luewater Network announced this month that for the second time, it will grant the National Park Service (NPS) additional time to conduct environmental reviews of personal watercraft (PWC) use in eight national recreation areas. Bluewater Network, which is represented by the law firm Meyer and Glitzenstein, extended the deadlines set under a December 2000, settlement agreement in Bluewater Network v. Stanton due to the poor quality of the draft reviews released so far by the Bush Administration.

    The original settlement agreement granted the NPS nearly two years to complete environmental assessments or impact statements of PWC use in specific park units. If the studies are not complete by the particular deadlines, PWC use will be prohibited until their completion. In some cases, several Park Service units decided not to conduct environmental reviews, and allowed jetski bans to move forward instead.

    Despite their foreknowledge of upcoming deadlines, the administration only recently began some review processes. Now, in rushing to beat the deadlines, parks have begun to release hastily prepared draft reviews that do not portray a thorough investigation of PWC impacts on park resources and lack site-specific information on jetski impacts. For example, Lake Mead National Recreation Area released an environmental impact statement in April 2002. The preferred alternative concludes that PWC inflict little damage upon park resources and wildlife and would leave 98 percent of Lake Mead and Lake Mohave open to jetski use. However, the NPS' report provides little evidence or support for this conclusion. The Park Service admits that it lacked current PWC counts, had no site-specific studies on the machines' impact upon wildlife, and performed no sampling to judge PWC damage to the lake's air quality. Moreover, the NPS's review omitted important PWC pollution.

    The new deadline extensions will grant the NPS until November 6th to complete its work at seven national recreation areas (NRAs). At Lake Mead NRA, the NPS will have until January 1, 2003. Failure to meet these new deadlines will require the NPS to close their waters to the machines until such time as the work is completed. In return for the extensions, the NPS pledged to “give appropriate consideration to the environmental impacts of adopting a 'No Action/No PWC Alternative,' as well as the environmental impacts that will result if an alternative allowing PWC use is adopted.” In addition, the NPS agreed to not ask for any further extensions.

    PWC, better known by the trade name jetski, have been shown to cause significant damage to air and water quality, visitor enjoyment, public health and safety, natural soundscapes, and wildlife. In addition, current research has shown that PWC inflict greater impacts upon wildlife such as dolphins and shore birds than do conventional motorboats. In April 2000, the National Park Service – recognizing these impacts – eliminated jetski use from most park units through a rulemaking process.

    “It appears the Bush Administration is rushing the jetski environmental reviews. Unfortunately, significant safety and pollution issues are going unaddressed,” said Sean Smith, Bluewater Network's public lands director, and former park ranger. “Bluewater Network hopes the administration uses the additional time to conduct site-specific jetski investigations and studies upon which to base sound judgments of these dirty and dangerous thrillcraft. The American public and our national park system deserve at least this much.”

    The jetski deadline has been moved to November 6th in the following parks:

    Amistad NRA (TX)
    Bighorn Canyon NRA (MT)
    Chickasaw NRU (OK)
    Curecanti NRA (CO)
    Glen Canyon NRA (UT/AZ)
    Lake Meredith NRA (TX)
    Lake Roosevelt NRA (WA)

    The deadline has been moved to January 1, 2003 in the following park:

    Lake Mead NRA (NV)

    As of November 6th the NPS at Lake Mead NRA agrees to the following: In sections 6, 7, 9, 15 (lower portion), 18, 23, and 24 of the Lake Mead NRA, as defined in Alternative B of the 2002 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Lake Mead (“Draft Lake Mead EIS”), Lake Mead NRA will only allow PWC use through the promulgation of Special Regulations. In addition, in Sections 4, 5, 14, 15 (upper portion), 16,19, 21, and 22 of the Lake Mead NRA, as defined in Draft Lake Mead EIS, Lake Mead NRA will adopt and enforce a no-wake zone covering the area extending 200 feet from each shoreline, unless these zones are modified through the promulgation of Special Regulations.