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Bush Won't Delay Ban on Personal Watercraft

April 11, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration will not try to delay a ban on personal watercraft scheduled to take effect April 22 in 13 national parks and recreation areas.

The ban is a result of a Clinton-era rule that set a deadline for parks to either establish regulations governing the watercraft or impose a blanket ban.

Personal watercraft, familiarly known by the trade name Jet Ski, are high-speed, gas-powered vessels designed to be ridden by one or two people.

So far, eight of the 13 parks, including Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in California, have decided to ban the watercraft. Superintendents at five other parks have decided some watercraft use might be appropriate, but environmental assessments are still underway and rules are being drafted at those parks, meaning they will be forced to ban watercraft on April 22.

The National Park Service had considered trying to push back the deadline at the five parks where rules were being crafted, but it didn't have the legal authority to do so, said Kym Hall, regulations program manager for the Park Service.

"We are going to have to close temporarily," she said. "We didn't want to have to do that, but we're going to have to."

The Park Service plans to make an announcement today to explain the reasons for the closures to the public. Eight other areas--including Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona and Nevada--have until Sept. 15 to adopt rules for watercraft or ban them.

The National Park Service has already prohibited watercraft use on 66 of the 87 bodies of water under its jurisdiction.

Two factors could delay the April 22 ban.

A federal judge in Texas has been asked by a watercraft industry group to stop the ban. The judge has scheduled a hearing for April 17.

The House also could vote next week on a bill that would postpone the ban until December 2004, although it is unlikely the bill will make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Steve Bosak of the National Parks Conservation Assn. said personal watercraft are inappropriate in national parks.

"These are places that Americans go to get away from the noise of their everyday lives and hear the waves lapping against the shore without hearing the incessant buzzing of the Jet Ski sound," Bosak said.

But Monita Fontaine, executive director of the Personal Watercraft Industry Assn., which sued the Park Service over the rule, called it premature to act without environmental assessments.

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