Coalition fights PWC ban in Biscayne National Park

MIAMI – “BOAT Biscayne,” a coalition of private business owners, personal watercraft enthusiasts, public recreation access organizations and industry manufacturers, filed a formal petition with the U.S. Department of the Interior today to lift the ban on personal watercraft at Florida’s Biscayne National Park, the group said in a press release this morning.

“There is simply no reason to ban these vessels from Biscayne National Park any longer – and that is why we have filed this petition today,” said Jeff Ludwig, Regulatory Affairs manager of the Personal Watercraft Industry Association.

The coalition is advocating that the park superintendent begin an environmental assessment, which is the first in series of steps that must be taken before the ban can be lifted. The assessment is then followed by a formal rulemaking process.

To date, 14 other national parks have completed a site-specific environmental assessment and every one of them has concluded that there is no reason to ban PWC on waters that allow other types of motor boating. In the past two years, six of those 14 parks have completed the rulemaking process and today allow PWC, BOAT Biscayne said.

“There is a precedent that we are confident will continue at Biscayne National Park; every time personal watercraft have been put to an objective, scientific test, they pass with flying colors,” Ludwig said. “This is because they are actually among the most environmentally friendly boats on the water today. Modern PWC are 75-percent cleaner and 70-percent quieter than those sold prior to 1998.”

Biscayne National Park, located in Miami south of Key Biscayne and north of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, banned personal watercraft use in 1998. All other types of recreational and commercial boats – even large commercial shipping vessels – are allowed on the park’s waters. Only PWC were banned.

Ban bad for business

The press conference also featured remarks from the BlueRibbon Coalition, a national recreation organization, two owners of local boat/PWC dealerships, and Miami residents affected by the ban at Biscayne National Park.

Dave Bamdas of Riva Motorsports – which has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, is the largest personal watercraft dealership in the world and employs approximately 100 people – voiced his objections at the press conference.

“I estimate that 90 percent of our customers used to ride at Biscayne National Park before the ban, and today there is so much uncertainty about where you can and where you cannot ride, that it has taken a substantial toll on my business,” said Bamdas, whose family owns Riva.

Original supporters of the coalition include PWIA, AWA, BlueRibbon Coalition, Jet Ski of Miami, Riva Motorsports, the Marine Industries Association of Florida, the Florida Water Access Coalition and the Florida Marine Contractors Association.

The coalition said it encouraged everyone to visit and to take action by sending a letter from the Web site to the park superintendent, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, members of Congress, and state and local elected officials.

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