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Contact: Jim Northup, 906-387-2607 ext 202
MUNISING, Mich. The National Park Service is initiating a new planning process regarding the use of personal watercraft (PWC) on the surface of Lake Superior within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The new planning process is required as a result of a federal court ruling issued in July 2010.
The planning process will only apply to the use of PWCs, and not any other type of watercraft. Under National Park Service (NPS) regulations, PWCs are defined as watercraft that are usually less than 16 feet in length, use an inboard internal combustion engine powering a water jet pump as its primary source of propulsion and are intended to be operated by a person or persons sitting, standing or kneeling on the vessel.
The NPS prepared a previous Environmental Assessment (EA) as National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance for a special regulation to allow PWC use at the park. The NPS completed this NEPA process in September 2005. In October 2005, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore implemented the special regulation that allowed for the limited use of PWC on the surface of Lake Superior within the park, between the park's western boundary near Sand Point, to the east end of Miners Beach. The regulation also required that PWCs operate in full compliance with State of Michigan regulations pertaining to PWC use. Under this regulation, PWCs are not allowed to operate in any other portion of the park.
The July 2010 ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia concluded that the NPS NEPA analysis was inadequate. The court allowed PWC use to continue to at Pictured Rocks under the existing regulation, but required the NPS to initiate a new planning process to address the court's concerns with the analysis in the previous EA. This planning process will produce a new analysis of the environmental consequences of PWC use in the park and, like the previous EA for PWC use, could result in selecting the alternative that would continue the current PWC use, expanded use along the Pictured Rocks shoreline, or a total ban on PWC use within the park.
The planning process will begin with public scoping sessions to be held in Grand Marais, Munising, and Marquette later in October. A separate news release will be issued with details on these meetings. At these public scoping sessions, organizations and members of the public will be invited to comment on the PWC planning effort's purpose, need, objectives, and preliminary alternatives. There will be additional opportunities for public comment after the alternatives are developed and analyzed in the Environmental Assessment. A final decision is expected in 2013.
"This is an important issue for the national lakeshore, and I urge all interested stakeholders to take full advantage of the opportunities that will be presented to provide us with your thoughts regarding PWC use within the park," Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore superintendent Jim Northup said.
Any person wishing to receive notifications concerning this process as it proceeds can submit an e-mail address, which will be placed on a mailing list. Requests can be sent to PIRO_personal_watercraft <at> nps.gov e-mail us. The resulting mailing list will be used solely to communicate information related to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore PWC planning effort.