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Park Service sued over Lake Powell PWC access

April 21, 2003
Filed under Features

Two Lake Powell area personal watercraft businesses, Lake Powell Waterworld and Doo Powell, along with pro-recreation groups the Blue Ribbon Coalition, Utah Shared Access Alliance, and the American Watercraft Association, filed suit March 17 in the United States District Court in Utah against the National Park Service (NPS) in the latest skirmish over PWC access on Utah’s renowned Lake Powell.
In the suit, the groups accuse the park service of violating federal administrative laws by not allowing for the proper public process when creating the current ban against PWC, a ban that was the result of a settlement between the NPS and the anti-PWC group Bluewater Network.
Specifically, the suit states “the terms of the Bluewater settlement were never disclosed or analyzed through any AWA rule-making process or any format providing public disclosure and an opportunity for public input.”
In the settlement, PWC use would only be allowed to continue after scientific studies were conducted to measure the craft’s impact and a special rule was adopted to govern their use.
Though those studies have been competed and demonstrate little to no impact from continued PWC usage in the area, the special rule has yet to be finalized, and NPS officials indicate that it won’t be until August, a move which would effectively keep PWC off the lake for nearly an entire season for no sound scientific or environmental reason.
The suit seeks to have the ban against PWC on Lake Powell lifted, and allow PWC users immediate access to the park that contains most of Lake Powell, the Glen Canyon Recreation Area.
No New Extensions
Personal watercraft users received a break from the NPS and Bluewater Network last fall when, after impact studies indicated the NPS would ultimately allow for continued PWC access, the Park Service and Bluewater agreed to a modification of the settlement agreement that ultimately extended the current deadline for the ban to go into effect twice, first to Sept. 15 and then again to Nov. 6.
Earlier last year, the NPS had requested a two-year extension from Bluewater, which was refused. The decision to extend the summer and fall deadlines effectively saved the remainder of the season for Powell area businesses and enthusiasts.
At that time, the NPS indicated that the required final rule allowing for PWC access within the park would be finished in time for the spring 2003 boating season, causing interested parties to breathe a sigh of relief. Recent estimates, however, have moved the target date closer to late summer, a decision that would severely impact the revenue of local businesses who depend on PWC access, as well as vacation plans for scores of enthusiasts.
“The viability of many of our businesses depends on reasonable PWC access to Lake Powell,” says Tim McDaniels, a local business owner. “It is puzzling that even though the NPS concluded that PWC belong at Lake Powell and their own studies support that conclusion, PWC are still not allowed.”
What makes the decision even more galling to Powell area enthusiasts is that a similar decision in Nevada was handled far differently. In that instance, businesses in the Lake Mead area filed suit over a similar ban that resulted in a grace period that extended all the way to April 10, 2003. Powell advocates argue the Lake Mead case was handled far quicker.
“Each individual park had to go through its own individual rulemaking process,” the AWA’s Stephan Andranian told Powersports Business. “The thing is, at Mead they had begun a complete lake management plan years ago. What they did is they just tied in the new requirements under the Bluewater settlement to their existing lake management plan. So they had kind of a head start on Lake Powell. And frankly, it seems to me like Lake Powell didn’t put the kind emphasis they should have on it to get it going.
“It’s a combination of those things and the fact that, quite honestly, the federal government just doesn’t work that fast. So the settlement agreement was probably unrealistic in the first place, to ever think that they could have had these rules in place even if they wanted to actually have them in place.
“A combination of all those factors and you have what’s going on right now at Lake Powell.”
Preliminary Injunction Filed
Of course, to area businesses and enthusiasts, what’s going on is a severe threat to their livelihoods and recreational choices. Almost all argue that since the “spirit” of the ruling will allow for continued PWC access in the park, the current ban makes no sense. With summer fast approaching, the issue is quickly reaching the boiling point.
According to Andranian, the AWA will have filed for a preliminary injunction by the time this issue of Powersports Business hits the streets. “We’ll be filing a motion for a preliminary injunction probably tomorrow, if not early next week,” Andranian said on April 3. “We’ll be filing that and we’ll know after that hearing. As soon as it’s filed, we’ll have a hearing scheduled and then we’ll know a lot more about what’s going on afterwards.
“We’re hoping that our preliminary injunction is successful, we can get this place opened up for the summer, and then they can continue their rulemaking process.”

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