VICTORY FOR LAKE HAVASU: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Withdraws Proposed Lake Havasu Boating Restrictions

Jun 16, 2016 Issues: Getting Things Done, Government Oversight and Regulatory Reform, Energy, Public Lands and Water

For Immediate Release

Date: June 16, 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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that it would withdraw its draft recreational boating compatibility determination (CD) for the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge:

“Today, the people of Lake Havasu City and its stakeholders scored a monumental victory in the fight against bureaucratic overreach. Standing together, as a unified community, we were able to block a terrible proposal put forth by the Fish and Wildlife Service that aimed to close significant areas on Lake Havasu to tubing, waterskiing, fishing and wakeboarding. Ultimately, the Service could not hide from the thousands of voices demanding that the will of the people be heard.

“This victory should put all overreaching federal agencies on notice: the American people are done with big government overreach. We refuse to tolerate lawless, unelected bureaucrats imposing their own political agenda on our communities. I am incredibly proud of the countless individuals and organizations who stood with me in opposing the CD including Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexsen; the Arizona Game and Fish Department; the Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce; U.S. Senator John McCain; the entire Bliss family including Nick, Jenni and my pal Ryder. 

“I applaud Dr. Tuggle for doing the right thing by scrapping the CD. Having said that, there were a couple things Director Tuggle forgot. I call on the Service to reopen the Ryde Spot, named after Ryder Bliss, that was unlawfully closed on May 20, 2015. Further, if this agency is going to move forward and pursue an MOU that results in a revised compatibility determination, then the Service should commit to complying with NEPA from the outset. The public controversy surrounding any proposed boating restrictions on Lake Havasu clearly exceeds the Council for Environmental Quality’s requirements for full compliance with this law prior to releasing any future proposals.”

Background

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 closing the Ryde Spot and prohibiting tubing, waterskiing and wakeboarding in a 1/2 mile area utilized by recreational enthusiasts for decades. This terrible new mandate was announced and implemented just two days before Memorial Day Weekend – an economically vital tourist weekend for Lake Havasu City. Further, it was done behind closed doors, with no notice and no opportunity for public comment.

On April 12, 2016, the Service announced a draft recreational boating compatibility determination (CD) and the agency’s intent to pursue even more restrictions on Lake Havasu. Once again, these proposed closures are based on an agenda, not science or need to close even more areas on Lake Havasu to motorized boating activities

In a press release issued today, June 16, by the Service, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest Regional Director announced the agency was withdrawing the draft CD announced April 12, 2016. To read the Service’s full statement click HERE.

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.

Congressman Gosar has been fighting to keep Lake Havasu open for all users from day one. 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. The Congressman spearheaded a bipartisan effort submitted by 21 members of the House of Representatives that raised serious concerns about the CD and asked for an extension of the public comment period. The Congressman also submitted an appropriations rider, submitted a FOIA request, attended and helped secure a public meeting in Lake Havasu City, submitted numerous written comments and questions to the Service, constructed a detailed fact page on his website, and interrogated several agency officials in attempting to prevent these arbitrary boating restrictions.

Yesterday, as a result of Congressman Gosar’s request, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Manager’s amendment to the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017, which included language condemning the actions taken by the Service when proposing new boating restrictions for Lake Havasu. More information can be found HERE.

According to the Service’s own estimates, nearly three million visitor’s vacation at Lake Havasu each year and a typical holiday weekend draws nearly 50,000 boaters to the area. According to a 2008 Lake Havasu City Tourism Survey, nearly 75% of tourists are interested in water skiing, wakeboarding or boating while visiting Lake Havasu. The survey also revealed tourists spend more than $200 million and support nearly 4,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

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