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(AZ/NV) PWC use at lake mead NRA final rule

Ed A. Stevens

NAXJA Member
NAXJA Member
PWC use at lake mead NRA final rule

April 9, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 68)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Page 17292-17307]

Personal Watercraft Use at Lake Mead National Recreation Area

AGENCY: National Park Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: This rule designates areas where personal watercraft (PWC) may
be used in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada and Arizona. This
rule implements the provisions of the National Park Service (NPS)
general regulation authorizing parks to allow the use of PWC by
promulgating a special regulation. The NPS Management Policies 2001
provides that individual parks should determine whether PWC use is
appropriate for a specific park area based on an evaluation of that
area's enabling legislation, resources and values, other visitor uses,
overall management objectives, and consistent with the criteria of the
NPS for managing visitor use. This rule authorizes the use of PWC at
Lake Mead National Recreation Area consistent with the Record of
Decision for Lake Management Plan.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This rule becomes effective April 9, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Mail Inquiries to: Jim Holland, Management Assistant, Lake
Mead National Recreation Area, 601 Nevada Way, Boulder City, Nevada

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kym Hall, Regulations Program Manager,
National Park
Service, 1849 C Street, NW., Room 7413, Washington, DC
20240. Phone: (202) 208-4206.

In May 1998 the Bluewater Network, a coalition of more than 70
organizations, filed a petition urging the National Park Service to
initiate the rulemaking process to prohibit PWC use throughout the
National Park System. In response to the petition, the NPS proposed a
specific PWC regulation premised on the notion that PWC use should be
evaluated by the individual park area to determine if the use is an
appropriate use of the park (63 FR 49312, Sept. 15, 1998).
The NPS envisioned the servicewide regulation as an opportunity to
evaluate impacts from PWC use before authorizing the use. The preamble
to the servicewide regulation calls the regulation a ``conservative
approach to managing PWC use'' considering the resource concerns,
visitor conflicts, visitor enjoyment, and visitor safety. During a 60-
day comment period, the NPS received nearly 20,000 comments.
After reviewing the public comments and further review, the NPS
promulgated a final regulation that prohibited PWC use in all units,
until the individual park areas determine PWC appropriateness for
continued use (36 CFR 3.24(a), 65 FR 15077-90, Mar. 21, 2000). The
final rule provided a 2-year grace period for 21 parks. Specifically,
the regulation allowed the NPS to designate PWC areas and to continue
PWC use by promulgating a special regulation in park areas, including
Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Ten NRA's were given an additional
option of authorizing PWC use through the units' superintendents'
compendium (36 CFR 3.24(b)), but only if the requirements of 36 CFR 1.5
were met. This additional designation method was provided for in the
units because of their congressional designation as national recreation
areas and specific congressional intent to provide for motorized
watercraft use in these parks.
In response to the PWC final regulation, Bluewater Network sued the
NPS. The organization challenged the National Park Service decision to
provide a 2-year grace period allowing continued PWC use in 21 park
units while prohibiting PWC use in other park units. In addition, the
organization also disputed the National Park Service decision to allow
10 park units the additional option of authorizing continued PWC use
after 2002 using the procedures of the superintendents' compendium (36
CFR 1.5), which would not require the opportunity for public input
through a notice and a comment rulemaking process.
In response to the suit, the National Park Service and the
environmental group negotiated a settlement. The resulting settlement
agreement accepted by the court on April 12, 2001, required each of
those parks authorizing continued PWC use must promulgate a park-
specific special regulation. The settlement agreement acknowledged that
the NEPA analysis must, at a minimum, evaluate PWC impacts on water
quality, air quality, soundscapes, wildlife, wildlife habitat,
shoreline vegetation, visitor conflicts, and visitor safety.
In 2001 the National Park Service adopted its revised NPS
Management Policies (NPS 2001) for the National Park System. The policy
document included a provision addressing PWC use in park units and the
need for proper evaluation before authorizing use in a specific park
unit ( The policy states that the use should be evaluated
based on the park's enabling legislation, resources, values, other park
uses, and overall management strategies.
On September 5, 2002, the National Park Service published a draft
rule for the operation of PWC at Lake Mead NRA (67 FR 56785-94). The
proposed rule for PWC use was based on alternative C (the preferred
alternative) in the Draft Environment Impact Statement/Lake Management
Plan (DEIS/LMP). The 60-day public comment period on the proposed rule
ran from September 5 to November 4, 2002.