A Rider for Ryder: Rep. Gosar Seeks to Protect Motorized Access on Lake Havasu for Special Needs Child and Others
For Immediate Release
Date: March 24, 2016
Contact: Steven D. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) submitted a language request to the House Appropriations Committee to prohibit funds for the Fish and Wildlife Service to carry out an arbitrary closure of recreational motorized boating at the north end of Lake Havasu that was made administratively and without public comment:
“I have received countless emails and letters from my constituents expressing outrage about the arbitrary motorized boating closure on Lake Havasu. After investigating this decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which included filing a FOIA request, it was discovered that this action was not based on merit,” stated Congressman Gosar. “This horrendous bureaucratic decision occurred because two residents made up lies and encouraged the agency to take this action. The agency shifted course after stating numerous times that it could not take the requested action and that if it did take any action, it would first solicit public comments. However, no public comment period ever occurred. Lake Havasu residents and businesses have been left to suffer the consequences as word has gotten out that motorized boating access is being restricted and popular channels have been closed.”
The Congressman’s office received so many comments on this issue that he had several members from his staff visit the actual site in August of 2015 so they could see the area firsthand. During their visit, the staff met nine-year-old Ryder Bliss, one of the people significantly harmed by this closure. Ryder is a special needs child who learned to wake board on the part of Lake Havasu that the Service shut down. The 2014 Summer issue of Lake Havasu Living Magazine documented Ryder’s story of overcoming the challenges associated with his genetic disorder through help from wake boarding.
“This is the only place on the lake that Ryder feels safe because of the high speeds at which boats travel on other parts of the lake. Because of this administrative closure, Ryder no longer has a safe place to wake board. Instead, the Fish and Wildlife Service expects him to wake board on the open lake where boats regularly travel as high 70 miles per hour. By closing this area, the Service has effectively closed the lake to a large population of tourists and locals,” said Gosar.
This same sentiment has been echoed by numerous residents who have used this part of the lake to teach new skiers, children and individuals with physical or mental disabilities who do not feel comfortable learning in the open water.
The full text of the appropriations language request can be found HERE.
On Tuesday March 22, 2016, Congressman Gosar hammered U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth during a House Committee on Natural Resources committee hearing over this arbitrary closure and demanded the agency reopen this part of Lake Havasu to motorized boating. Click HERE to watch the video.
On August 28, 2015, Congressman Gosar’ s office submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking all relevant information on this closure. Click HERE to read the letter.
On December 10, 2015, the Service responded to Congressman Gosar’s request. The FOIA request revealed that two residents made up lies and encouraged the agency to take this action. The FOIA request also revealed that the agency initially opposed taking such action. Multiple emails from the acting refugee manager indicated that the agency believed it couldn’t arbitrarily close the channel and if they chose to pursue such a closure the agency would be required to hold a 30-60 day public comment period. An email from the acting refugee manager’s boss stating that a closure would likely meet resistance and require NEPA compliance was also discovered in the request.
On June 24, 2015, Congressman Gosar sent a letter to the Service demanding the agency rescind the new restrictions implemented on May 20, 2015, and pursue a community-supported plan for resolving this situation. Click HERE to read the letter.
On July 10, 2015 the Service sent a poorly worded response to the June 24th letter stating that the “Service recognizes the importance of public involvement in decisions regarding visitor use on the Refuge…[and] will initiate a review of the overall recreation boating program occurring on the Refuge. This will include soliciting public input from all users of the Refuge” The Service went on to state that existing restrictions will remain in place till that occurs. Nearly a year later, no public comment period has commenced and recreational motorized boating at the north end of Lake Havasu has remained closed.
On May 20, 2015, the Service issued a News Release that established new boating restrictions and expanded the no wake zone within the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, effectively closing motorized boating in an area that had been utilized by recreational enthusiasts for decades. This order was “effective immediately” and the newly closed areas were quickly marked with regulatory buoys and signs. This order was implemented by the acting refuge manager without engaging local stakeholders or providing an opportunity for public comment. These arbitrary closures also became effective two days before Memorial Day Weekend, a very important tourist weekend for Lake Havasu.