2006-03-03 / Community

Proposal Would Lift Personal Watercraft Ban

National Park Service Seeks Public Comment
By Brian Magoolaghan

The National Park Service said last week that it wants public feedback on a proposal that would allow restricted personal watercraft use in Gateway National Recreation Area, including Jamaica Bay.

Personal watercrafts, or PWC’s, such as Kawasaki’s Jet Ski, have been banned in National Park Service waters, which includes most of Jamaica Bay, since April, 2002. Those who use them illegally risk being hunted from above by helicopter and summonsed by U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Park Police Marine Unit boats.

Under the proposed rule, the National Park Service would permit use in the following channels: North Channel (Island Channel), Beach Channel (South Channel), Grass Hassock Channel, Plumb Beach Channel to the trestle bridge (the Raunt).

PWC users living on creeks, basins and waterways adjacent to those channels would be allowed to follow a buoyed route or follow the most direct route to access one of the channels.

At all times they would be required to travel below “flat wake speed,” the proposal says.

The idea is to allow PWC users to travel through NPS waters to water that is not under NPS jurisdiction. Other restrictions would also apply. PWC users, for example, would be banned from sunset to sunrise and would be prohibited from landing (coming ashore) with their vessels within the NPS area.

“The public should be aware that three other alternatives were presented in the [environmental assessment] including a no-PWC alternative,” the proposal says ominously.

The PWC ban was lowered in all but a handful of NPS water regions so that each area could evaluate impact and appropriateness of PWCs “based on the legislation that established the park, the park’s resources and values, other visitor uses of the area, and overall management objectives,” according to the proposal. Salt marshes and tidal wetlands are a top concern in Jamaica Bay, the proposal says.

The public has until April 25 to view the proposal and submit comments by visiting www.Regulations.gov . You may also e-mail comments to GATE_PWCComments@louisberger.com, or send them to: General Superintendent, Gateway National Recreation Area, 210 New York Avenue, Staten Island, New York 10305. You must reference “RIN 1024-AD41” in all correspondence.

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