PWC could return to Lake Roosevelt by summer

KETTLE FALLS, Wash. – Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area has finalized its environmental assessment and may allow personal watercraft to re-enter its gates as early as the beginning of summer, according to Chief Ranger Don Mason.

In an article published by The Star of Grand Coulee, reported that the Personal Watercraft Draft Rule, which every National Park was asked to complete, should be available by the end of the month. While the draft is expected to allow personal watercraft back to all parts of the lake, there are changes expected to be made.

The new ruling is expected to increase the no-wake zone at least 200 feet around developed areas such as camprounds, boat launches, and marinas, and it would also prohibit the use of PWC in the Kettle River, northwest of Kettle Falls. For more than two years, PWC have only been allowed on the portion of Lake Roosevelt controlled by Indian tribes, according to the article.

The special regulation, Mason told the paper, could be finalized before the beginning of summer but they are still working with the National Park Service in Washington D.C. on the rule making process

After the process is finalized, the public will be allowed a 60-day period to comment on a plan that will regulate how personal watercraft are used on Lake Roosevelt.

Three-Part Assessment

The new regulation was one of three alternatives that was studied in the environmental assessment. The first alternative was to ban all use of personal watercraft, the other was to allow use in all areas and the third was to allow use with some restrictions.

According to the article, LRNRA Superintendent Debbie Bird recommended to the National Park Service last summer that PWC be reinstated with the restrictions. The possible alternative follows more than two years of study by the NPS. The study was said to research PWC impact on the environment and on the visitors’ experience.

It was two years ago that the Bluewater Network, a San Francisco-based environmental group, filed a lawsuit against the NPS. The lawsuit led to nationwide requirement for the NPS to determine if PWC use was appropriate and compatible for specific areas. PWC were officially banned from all non-tribal waters on the lake in November 2002.

In November, Bluewater Network Public Land Director Sean Smith reportedly told “The Star” that they have explored the option of another lawsuit if the PWCs are let back on Lake Roosevelt, although Mason says the park has not heard from the Bluewater Network recently.

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