Business owners & recreation groups file suit to lift personal watercraft ban

Jack Welch, President, BlueRibbon Coalition

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (March 18, 2003) -- A coalition of small business owners and recreational organizations filed suit today against the National Park Service (NPS) in the United States District Court in Utah to lift a ban on personal watercraft (PWC) and grant owners of the boats immediate access to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area's Lake Powell.

"This ban on PWC use will have drastic impacts on the local community which depends on tourism revenue," said business owner Freddie Hancock of Page, Arizona.

Tim McDaniels, another business owner, echoed her concerns. "The viability of many of our businesses depend on reasonable PWC access to Lake Powell. 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."

Better known by their trademark names of Jet Ski, Waverunner, and Sea Doo, personal watercraft, or PWC, were banned at Lake Powell as a result of a closed-door agreement between a San Francisco-based anti-recreation group called the Bluewater Network and the NPS. The suspect agreement came after a public rulemaking process had allowed for continued access or PWC at Lake Powell, in which the NPS spent several years and collected over 20,000 comments from the public.

As a result of the agreement, PWC use can only continue at Lake Powell after scientific studies are conducted assessing their impact on the lake and after a "special rule" is adopted. While the studies have been completed and show little to no impact from continued PWC use, the "special rule" will not be completed until August at Lake Powell, meaning that PWC will be banned all summer from the popular recreational boating destination -- and for no scientific or environmental reason at all.

Plaintiffs in the case include Page businesses Lake Powell Waterworld and Doo Powell, as well as the Utah Shared Access Alliance, BlueRibbon Coalition, and the American Watercraft Association.

The suit alleges that the settlement agreement between the Bluewater Network and the NPS, which calls for the current ban, violated Federal law because it improperly created a new rule while sidestepping the public process.


November 1997 -- Bluewater Network, an anti-boating group based in San Francisco, California, files a petition with the National Park Service (NPS) urging a complete ban on personal watercraft (PWC) use in the National Park System.

September 1998 -- NPS publishes proposed rule allowing PWC use in 25 park units, determining that PWC use is appropriate in those units. Glen Canyon NRA is included in this list.

March 21, 2000 -- NPS publishes Final PWC Rule Rule (65 Fed.Reg. 15, 077 (2000)). Rule allows PWC use in 21 park units for 2 years (until April 22, 2002). During this time, park superintendents are charged with developing PWC rules for their permanent inclusion at the park units via a "compendium" process which grants substantial authority and flexibility to the local superintendent of each affected unit.

August 21, 2000 -- Bluewater Network files suit against the NPS challenging the Final Rule and seeking a complete and total ban on PWC in all units, including Glen Canyon and Lake Mead National Recreation Areas. In November of 2000, the American Watercraft Association (AWA) files a motion to intervene in the lawsuit.

April 11, 2001 -- U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler denies AWA's motion to intervene and signs an order ratifying a Settlement Agreement between the NPS and Bluewater Network. Settlement Agreement requires the adoption of a Special Rule, including full environmental analysis, in any NPS unit wishing to allow continued PWC use. Some park units, including Glen Canyon NRA, are granted an extension until September 15, 2002, to complete the studies and implement a PWC rule.

February 8, 2002 -- NPS requests a two-year extension of the deadline to complete the PWC rules, citing "unanticipated delays" in the environmental assessment and rulemaking process. Bluewater Network refuses.

September 6, 2002 -- Bluewater Network and the NPS agree to a modification of the settlement agreement, extending the deadline to November 6, 2002 at all park units with the exception of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which has until January 1, 2003 to complete a PWC rule. Both Bluewater Network and the NPS admit that it has taken the NPS longer than expected to complete the rulemaking process.

December 24, 2002 -- Bluewater Network grants another extension to the deadline, but only for Lake Mead National Recreation Area, giving the NPS until April 10, 2003, to complete the rulemaking process. Bluewater refuses to grant any similar extension for Glen Canyon NRA, even though environmental assessments show little to no impact from PWC.

March 18, 2003 -- Small businesses, along with the Utah Shared Access Alliance, the BlueRibbon Coalition, and the AWA, file suit against the NPS at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area seeking a reprieve from the PWC ban, which will destroy area businesses because of delays in the rulemaking process.


The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible recreation, equal opportunity and recreation access to all. The BlueRibbon Coalition works to "Preserve our natural resources FOR the public instead of FROM the public," and to promote cooperation among the various user-groups.

Contact: Jack Welch, President, BlueRibbon Coalition
Phone: (303) 279-8436 or (307) 733-4402
Fax: (303) 279-8214
Date: March 18, 2003


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