Personal Watercraft Environmental Assessment - Resource Mapping and AnalysisGulf Islands NS
In April 2000, the National Park Service promulgated regulations closing most NPS waters to the use of personal watercraft (PWC). If a particular park determined that PWC use was, in fact, appropriate for that park, special regulations would be necessary to allow continued use. Otherwise, PWC use would cease in April 2002.
Gulf Islands National Seashore conducted a year-long analysis of PWC use at the park and in the surrounding areas. Factors considered included: visitor/operator safety, levels of current use, economic benefit/impact, water and air pollution, and potential impacts to park visitors, natural and cultural resources, and wilderness values. It was determined that PWC use was inappropriate at the park and the prohibition would take affect in April 2002.
For various legal and political reasons, the NPS decided that additional Environmental Assessments would be required at various parks. Gulf Islands National Seashore was added to the list and a contractor was hired to prepare the EA.
To provide adequate resource data for the out-of-state contractor’s analysis as well as to provide graphic representations of park resources to the public during public scoping workshops, park resource maps were prepared for all water areas using GIS. Based on the earlier park determination, resources were included that were thought to be most at risk.
Assistance in preparing these maps was provided by the University of West Florida GIS program. Funds provided by the Southeast Regional GIS Office were instrumental in developing this cooperative partnership with the university. UWF has been tentatively designated a regional support center and efforts are currently underway to make that a reality.