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Grand Canyon River Plan Released!

Posted: 10/01/2004
by Jason Robertson

Grand Canyon National Park Releases Plans to Reduce 26-Year Wait List for Rafting Community

Important first step for equity and river management.

 

Contact:

GCPBA, Richard Martin, President, leigh@sedona.net

 

American Whitewater, Jason Robertson, Acting Executive Director, Jason@awa.org, 301-502-4610

 

For Release: October 1, 2004

 

FLAGSTAFF, AZ  The Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) has released it's long awaited Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS) today, an important part of the process of revising the methods used for recreational management of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The plan can be dowloaded from http://www.nps.gov/grca/crmp/documents/deis/index.htm.

 

The DEIS presents a number of proposals, including a Park Service preferred option for the future of recreational river management on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

 

About 22,000 people from around the world travel through the Canyon annually. Jason Robertson, American Whitewater's Executive Director, observed that "Demand for trip opportunities far exceeds the current limits." Robertson continued, "The public's self-guided travelers now face a wait as long as 26 years for an opportunity to experience the Grand Canyon via the Colorado River. Everyone recognizes that this is a problem requiring an inventive solution."

 

In fact, the permit situation has grown so dire, that last year the park stopped taking applicants for non-commercial river trip permits, effectively closing the river to those not on the Park Service's "wait list" or able to pay for an expensive commercial guide service.

 

Richard Martin, President of the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA), recalled that "The action to suspend the wait list was taken in preparation for a different access system," which Martin says "will hopefully alleviate a situation that many regard as unfair."

 

The release of these proposals, including a preferred alternative, has been eagerly anticipated by all concerned with the Colorado River management planning effort. This effort has been ongoing for nearly three decades and was resumed in 2002 after the Park Service agreed to settle a law suit filed by the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA), American Whitewater (AW) (GCPBA vs Alston, et al) and others to restart a stalled process. The plan had been suspended when former Grand Canyon Superintendent, Rob Arnberger cancelled the effort citing "differences between constituents" as a major stumbling block to completion.

 

Both the GCPBA and AW will be studying this important and detailed document, and offering opinions as to how well the National Park Service has addressed the important issues specified by the 2002 lawsuit settlement.

 

Robertson noted that "Together, both groups have worked closely with the Park Service throughout the planning process and we are confident that planners have prepared a series of quality proposals for the public to examine."  Martin added, "We very much appreciate the effort made by planners to address the long standing issues, left unresolved for more than 30 years."

 

Public comment will be sought for a 90-day period to include a series of public meetings. At the conclusion of the 90-day period, planners will evaluate comments for formulation of a final plan to be hopefully implemented in 2005.

 

Implementation is another hurdle facing planners and administrators. New administrative plans imply change. Changes in public use levels will have an effect on the natural environment, the user experience and Park operations. If significant changes are proposed, then GCNP will be challenged to find the additional funds needed to implement and monitor new levels of activity to insure that degradation of the resource is precluded.

 

Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA) is a non-profit 501c3, all volunteer organization. GCPBA was founded in 1996 to represent the interests of the self-guided community on issues affecting the public's opportunity to have access to the rivers of the United States, especially those of the US Southwest. GCPBA is affiliated with American Whitewater (AW). www.gcpba.org

 

American Whitewater (AW) is a national 501c3 non-profit and is celebrating its 50th anniversary. AW is headquartered near Washington, DC and is devoted to river conservation, stewardship, securing greater public access to the nation's rivers, and providing educational and safety information to the river running community. AW represents 88,000 boaters through memberships and club affiliations.  www.AmericanWhitewater.org

 

 

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Jason D. Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349