Jet Skis and other personal watercraft will be banned in all national parks and recreation areas after two more summers under a settlement approved by a federal judge today.
The gasoline-powered personal watercraft are already banned from 66 of the 87 parks, recreational areas and seashores where motorized boats are allowed throughout the nation. Today's order by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler affects the remaining 21 parks.
Kessler dismissed a challenge from watercraft manufacturers and vendors to the agreement negotiated last December by the Interior Department and the Bluewater Network, a San Francisco-based environmental group. The Bush administration endorsed the accord.
The Park Service agreed that unless it can prove the machines don't harm the environment on a site-by-site basis, each will be added to a list of Jet Ski-free zones by Sept. 15, 2002.
"This Jet Ski settlement is great news for the national parks," said Sean Smith, spokesman for the San Francisco-based Bluewater Network environmental group that had sued the National Park Service. "It will better protect the visiting public as well as park resources and wildlife from these noisy, smelly and dangerous machines."
Ski Industry: ‘We've Been Singled Out’
Last year, the Park Service banned Jet Skis from two-thirds of the national parks. That prompted Bluewater Network to file a federal lawsuit to widen the ban to the remaining 21 parks and recreation areas. The Personal Watercraft Industry Association and the American Watercraft Association tried unsuccessfully to intervene.
Manufacturers and owners have argued that personal watercraft pollute less and are more maneuverable than motorboats, and that the nation's 1.2 million watercraft owners have a right to use public waterways.
Monita Fontaine, the industry association's director, said today she was disappointed but still expected to get Jet Skis, which cost an average of $7,000, approved for use in the parks based on new technology that cuts emissions and noise.
"We're not happy with the process, we believe we've been singled out," she said. "You can take any other boat you want in the park — you can take a cigarette boat."
Over the past three years, she said, the two-stroke outboard motors used in Jet Skis have reduced their hydrocarbon emissions by 75 percent and their noise by 70 percent.
"If there is evidence that there is a substantial impact on the environment from Jet Ski use, they have the right to ban them," she said. "However, we believe that we will be able to pass any environmental assessment."