Jet skis may be banned in some sections of Lake Powell, says the superintendent of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
A proposed regulation by the National Park Service would allow continued use of jet skis at Lake Powell and a dozen other recreation and seashore areas. But it isn't all smooth-sailing for jet skis: The proposal apparently gives superintendents a local rulemaking authority.Glen Canyon Superintendent Joe Alston said he may use that authority to ban personal watercraft in parts of the vast lake, which sprawls through southern Utah and northern Arizona.
At an additional 12 sites nationwide, the proposal would allow jet ski use during the next two years while the Park Service evaluates their appropriateness. Meanwhile, the agency imposed a ban on personal watercraft at all other Park Service facilities.
Alston said he may not continue the present situation, in which jet skis have free rein throughout Lake Powell.
"I receive more complaints about personal watercraft, their operation, than any other the National Park Service has here," he said. Letters arrive "asking us to do something about inconsiderate operators, noisy machines, and, frankly, very young people operating these machines."
Companies in the area probably have 200 to 300 jet skis they can rent, he said. Thousands more are owned by people who visit from throughout the region.
"They are part and parcel of what people come to Lake Powell to enjoy," Alston said. When a local rule is made about the watercraft, he is certain people will be able to continue using them on the lake.
Alston intends to ask the public what to do about jet skis. "If the public tells us they are happy with the situation here, unlimited watercraft use, then that's what we'll do. But I have a sense that a significant part of our visiting public here would like to have places where they could get away from personal watercraft."
The recreation area may begin drafting the local rule this winter, he added.
Some environmentalists had sought a total ban of jet skis throughout the park system, even in popular recreation areas such as Lake Mead in Nevada where they have been extremely popular for years.
But the Park Service rejected such a sweeping ban, arguing that use of jet skis was appropriate at 13 sites - many of them manmade lakes such as Lake Mead - where recreational boating is a primary attraction.
The National Park and Conservation Association called the action "a long overdue move to protect the water and wildlife of the parks" but said it was concerned that unregulated jet ski use would continue at 12 parks while the issue is being further reviewed.
According to the environmental group Friends of the Earth, jet skis frequently discharge 25 percent of their oil and gas emissions directly into the water, dumping more petrochemicals every year than would four oil spills of the caliber of the Exxon Valdez disaster.
"We think there are places the public wants to be able to continue to use them," said Park Service spokesman David Barna.