Park Service to ban some personal watercraft

Friday, April 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Only two more summers for personal watercraft in the national parks.

The small vessels that generally accommodate one or two riders are to be banned in all national parks and recreation areas by Sept. 15, 2002, unless the Park Service can prove the machines don't harm the environment on a site-by-site basis.

The gasoline-powered boats are already banned from 66 of the 87 parks, recreational areas and seashores where motorized boats are allowed.

But the settlement of a case accepted Thursday by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler affects the remaining 21.

Kessler dismissed a challenge from watercraft manufacturers and vendors to the agreement negotiated last December by the Interior Department and the Bluewater Network, a San Francisco-based environmental group. The Bush administration endorsed the accord.

``This Jet Ski settlement is great news for the national parks,'' said Sean Smith, spokesman for Bluewater Network, which had sued the National Park Service. ``It will better protect the visiting public as well as park resources and wildlife from these noisy, smelly and dangerous machines.''

The Park Service agreed that each of the sites will be added to a list of personal watercraft-free zones in two years unless it can be shown the boats are harmless.

Last year, the Park Service banned them from two-thirds of the national parks and Bluewater Network filed a federal lawsuit to widen the ban to the remaining areas.

The Personal Watercraft Industry Association and the American Watercraft Association tried unsuccessfully to intervene.

Manufacturers and owners have argued that personal watercraft pollute less and are more maneuverable than motorboats, and that the nation's 1.2 million watercraft owners have a right to use public waterways.

Monita Fontaine, the industry association's director, said Thursday she was disappointed but still expected to get personal watercraft, which cost an average of $7,000, approved for use in the parks based on new technology that reduces noise and emissions.

Over the past three years, she said, the two-stroke outboard motors used in the boats have reduced their hydrocarbon emissions by 75 percent and their noise by 70 percent.

``If there is evidence that there is a substantial impact on the environment from Jet Ski use, they have the right to ban them,'' she said. ``However, we believe that we will be able to pass any environmental assessment.''

The 21 areas affected are:

_Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Arizona, Utah)

_Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Arizona, Nevada)

_Whiskeytown National Recreation Area (California)

_Curecanti National Recreation Area (Colorado)

_Cumberland Island National Seashore (Georgia)

_Gulf Island National Seashore (Florida, Mississippi)

_Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Indiana)

_Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts)

_Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland/Virginia)

_Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Minnesota)

_Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (Montana)

_Cape Lookout National Seashore (North Carolina)

_Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (New Jersey, Pennsylvania)

_Fire Island National Seashore (New York)

_Gateway National Recreation Area (New York)

_Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Oklahoma)

_Amistad National Recreation Area (Texas)

_Lake Meredith National Recreation Area (Texas)

_Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

_Big Ticket National Preserve (Texas)

_Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area (Washington)