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PWC Still an Issue at Biscayne National Park

December 14, 2004
Filed under Features

Biscayne National Park, located in Miami south of Key Biscayne and north of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, banned personal watercraft use in 2000 by enacting locally a federal National Park Service rule that allowed individual parks to prohibit PWC use without a local, site-specific scientific review. For four years, all other types of recreational and commercial boats – even large commercial shipping vessels – have been allowed on the park’s waters while PWC have been banned.
On Dec. 11, area water sports enthusiasts and business owners filled a town hall meeting convened to address the issue of personal watercraft at Biscayne National Park. The meeting was organized by the BOAT Biscayne Coalition, a group involving local boaters, dealers, the American Watercraft Association, the BlueRibbon Coalition and the Personal Watercraft Industry Association. The BOAT Biscayne Coalition explained that just one day earlier, the National Park Service declined a petition filed in late August with the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service urging a scientific study to reevaluate the personal watercraft ban at the park.
An environmental assessment would be the first step in bringing PWC back to Biscayne National Park. A formal rulemaking process then follows the assessment.
“It is disappointing that without any consideration for the more than 2,000 local residents who have contacted the park over the past three months in favor of bringing personal watercraft back, that the National Park Service declined the petition,” stated Jeff Ludwig of the Personal Watercraft Industry Association.
“If you are pro-environment, then you should support the environmental assessment study. These studies are designed to determine the impact that personal watercraft will have on the local environment. Fourteen other national parks have conducted environmental assessments in the past two years and every single one of them has found that personal watercraft should not be banned on waters that allow other types of motorized boating,” he concluded.
“There’s no justification for the ban,” stated Wiley Russell of the American Watercraft Association. “There was never any local study – scientific or otherwise – to determine a need to ban personal watercraft.”
Local business owners in attendance said the ban is bad for business and also call on the park to immediately begin an objective, science-based study.
“My customers and my business are negatively affected by this unfair ban,” said Dave Bamdas of Riva Motorsports. “Before the ban, I estimate that 90% of my customers used to ride in Biscayne National Park.
“Four years of discrimination is four too many,” he continued. “How I am supposed to continue to sell these boats and keep my employees when Biscayne National Park arbitrarily decides to target personal watercraft meanwhile allowing all other boats – even tankers – to come and go as they please?”
Riva Motorsports is one of the largest multi-line personal watercraft dealerships in the world. It has locations in Pompano Beach and Key Largo and employs approximately 100 local residents.
Biscayne National Park is in a tri-county area. In 2003 there were 8,479 registered PWC in Miami-Dade County, 7,607 in Broward County and 1,643 in Monroe County. Statewide there were 106,356 registered PWC.

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