Personal Watercraft Use Continues Under Federal Court Ruling

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Date: July 20, 2010
Contact: Jim Northup, 906-387-2607, ext. 202

The United States District Court in the District of Columbia has issued a ruling regarding a lawsuit filed by the Bluewater Network, the Wilderness Society and two individuals regarding the regulations that allowed limited personal watercraft (PWC) use at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Gulf Islands National Seashore. The regulations for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore were implemented in 2005.

“I am in the process of reviewing the Court’s 88-page ruling, and I am consulting with our Regional and Washington Offices on our options for responding to the Court’s opinion,” Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore superintendent Jim Northup stated. “However, our legal counsel has advised me that since the Court did not formally vacate the current regulation, it remains in effect for now, and PWC use may continue at Pictured Rocks, consistent with that regulation, until further notice.”

In a Memorandum Opinion issued by United States District Judge Gladys Kessler on July 8, the Court concluded the analysis of environmental impacts from personal watercraft use, conducted by the National Park Service (NPS) under requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), was inadequate. Based on that determination, the Court concluded the NPS “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) for limited PWC use in the Lakeshore was arbitrary and capricious. The Court remanded the case back to the NPS “to provide reasoning consistent with the Court’s opinion” but did not formally vacate or overturn the current rule.

Under current regulations, PWCs within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore may only operate on the surface of Lake Superior between the park’s western boundary and the east end of Miners Beach. PWCs must also be in full compliance with the State of Michigan regulations pertaining to PWC use. For more detail, visit the park’s website at

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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