22 Bipartisan Members Call on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Reopen the “Ryde Spot” on Lake Havasu

Jul 11, 2016 Issues: Government Oversight and Regulatory Reform, Energy, Public Lands and Water

For Immediate Release

Date: July 11, 2016

Contact: Steven D. Smith

Steven.Smith@mail.house.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after leading a bipartisan effort calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to withdraw the temporary Lake Havasu boating restrictions issued on May 20, 2015, that are effectively prohibiting tubing, waterskiing and wake boarding in an area, known as the “Ryde Spot,” that has been utilized by recreational enthusiasts for decades:

“Despite an unprecedented outcry from the local Lake Havasu City community and other stakeholders, the Service has still not reopened the ‘Ryde Spot.’ These ‘temporary restrictions’ have now been in effect for more than a year. This area used to be a place where families taught their children to ski and wakeboard until overreaching bureaucrats irresponsibly closed this section of the reservoir. As a result, several special needs children no longer have a safe place for these activities.

“Instead, these restrictions have created safety issues as more people have been confined to a smaller space with boats traveling 70 miles per hour. If the Service is interested in working with the community and other stakeholders, as stated in the June 16, 2016 press release, then the agency should reopen the backwater area that was temporarily closed to motorized boating activities in May of 2015. I will not rest until that occurs and I’m proud to see strong bipartisan support from my colleagues in the House of Representatives for reopening this area that was arbitrarily shut down by the Service last May for no reason.”

One of the letter's cosigners, Congressman Paul Cook (R-CA), stated, “These were supposed to be temporary restrictions, and it’s past time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to lift them. These restrictions harm the Lake Havasu economy, which depends heavily on tourists who participate in waterskiing and other recreational boating activities. Families have enjoyed the backwater area safely for decades, and they deserve to see access restored to this public waterway.”

Background:

The full text of the Congressman’s letter can be found HERE.

22 bipartisan members of the House signed the letter including: Representatives Mark Amodei, Ken Buck, Paul Cook, Kevin Cramer, Jeff Duncan, Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, Walter Jones, Ann Kirkpatrick, Cresent Hardy, Cynthia Lummis, Tom McClintock, Dan Newhouse, Devin Nunes, Steve Pearce, Matt Salmon, David Schweikert, Kyrsten Sinema, Scott Tipton, Greg Walden, Ted Yoho and Ryan Zinke.

Additionally, Congressman Gosar has filed a bipartisan amendment to H.R. 5538, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017, that will be considered by the House this week. The amendment utilizes the power of the purse and prohibits funds for the Fish and Wildlife Service to continue to prevent tubing, waterskiing and wake boarding in the Ryde Spot (named after 10-year-old special needs child Ryder Bliss who learned to wakeboard in this backwater area on Havasu).

On July 15, 2016, the Congressman successfully worked with the Appropriations Committee to pass an amendment to H.R. 5538 at the Committee level which led to report language that condemned the actions by the Service when proposing new boating restrictions for Lake Havasu. More HERE

On May 20, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued new motorized boating restrictions that arbitrarily expanded a no wake zone on Lake Havasu, effectively prohibiting tubing, waterskiing and wake boarding in an area utilized by recreational enthusiasts for decades. This action was taken behind closed doors, with no advance notice and without opportunity for public comment. These new mandates were announced and implemented just two days before Memorial Day Weekend – an economically vital weekend as tourists spend more than $200 million annually and support 4,000 full-time jobs. Further, 75% of tourists are interested in waterskiing and recreational boating activities while visiting Havasu. 

The Service has attempted to justify the May 2015 “temporary restrictions” by stating they are necessary to address safety concerns. The Arizona Game and Fish Department recently submitted formal comments refuting this claim, stating there were only four incidents in the last three years in this area, three groundings and one swamping. The Department went on to state that “the temporary restriction imposed in May, 2015…includes a safe, traditional, very popular waterskiing and wakeboarding flat-area...[The Service] does not adequately justify this additional restriction and that the impacts to recreation could be significant...The reported events do not support the existence of a safety concern.”

On April 12, 2016, the Service announced a draft recreational boating compatibility determination (CD) and the agency’s intent to pursue even more boating restrictions on Lake Havasu. This proposal caused a public backlash. 1,000 people showed up at the public meeting in Arizona and there was widespread opposition and concerns from the BLM, the local chambers, the local mayors, 20 bipartisan members of Congress, the Appropriations Committee, and countless stakeholders. Due to significant opposition, the Service withdrew the CD on June 16th and suspended the agency’s pursuit of the April 12 restrictions. 

While this action was welcomed, the Service still has not reopened the area closed on May 20, 2015 that started this controversy.

Congressman Gosar has created a comprehensive information page on his website HERE documenting all relevant facts of this issue as well as a timeline of important events.

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