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Lawsuit Challenges Quotas on Colorado River Rafting

July 07, 2000|From Associated Press

TUCSON — Willie Odem signed up to go on a private whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon in February 1990 and right away knew it would be a while.

"When I got on a list, my number was 3,220. And it took me almost 10 years," said Odem, president of the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Assn. His trip came in September, and he and others think that's too long.

On Thursday, Odem's organization and environmentalists challenged allocations for rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in a lawsuit targeting the National Park Service and the Interior Department.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, asks the court to reallocate the percentage of rafting permits to give private boaters a better chance of getting on the river.

Since 1980, private boaters have been allowed 32% of the user days for rafting through the canyon, while commercial rafting companies have been allowed 68%.

About 20,000 people take commercial rafting trips on the river each year.

The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction requiring the Park Service to resume work on a wilderness and river management plan for Grand Canyon National Park. Additionally, it seeks to reduce or eliminate use of motorized watercraft on the river.

In February, park Supt. Rob Arnberger stopped work on the plan, citing polarization among river user groups and interests, a lack of resources and a lack of congressional guidance on the issue.

Grand Canyon park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge said park officials had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment.

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