The new regulations would:
• Prohibit kite-boarding and hydro-flight equipment in waters south of Interstate 40
• Prohibit boaters from launching watercraft or operating personal watercraft in areas including Beal Lake, Pintail Slough, Lost Lake and Topock Bay.
• Remove restrictions on air-cooled outboard engines.
• Prohibit use of hovercraft in refuge waters
• Stop allowing the use of air-thrust boats and air-cooled propulsion engines for all activities, including hunting and fishing.
Regulations called a compromise:
A new proposal being floated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishes a series of no-wake and restricted zones throughout Havasu National Wildlife Refuge backwaters.
The proposal released Wednesday is a compromise, according to Refuge Manager Richard Meyers, after public outcry against stricter proposals in 2016. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has some restrictions in mind for Refuge boaters, Meyers says those restrictions will do little to obstruct recreational boating in the Refuge or on the Colorado River.
“We wanted to make sure there was no confusion,” Meyers said. “We heard from all sides last year. There was a lot of confusion in the public…people believed we wanted to make the entire Refuge a ‘no-wake’ zone. That isn’t the case.
According to Meyers, there will be few changes to regulations at the Refuge’s southern end, although the document would prohibit kite-boarding and hydro-flight equipment in waters south of Interstate Highway 40.
Waters inaccessible to boaters will be designated as “backwaters” under the new proposal, prohibiting boaters from launching watercraft or operating personal watercraft in areas including Beal Lake, Pintail Slough, Lost Lake and Topock Bay. The stipulation would prohibit towed recreational activities in these areas.
“We aren’t going to be changing the buoys,” Meyers said. “We will leave the open waters open. People will be able to ski or do any of the normal things they would want to do in those open waters.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal would also remove restrictions on air-cooled outboard engines, while prohibiting the use of hovercraft within Refuge waters.
Although admitting he hasn’t read every word of the compatibility determination yet, Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexsen said those changes appear to be promising.
“My initial reaction is that it should have little to no impact on Lake Havasu City. The area that was a bit contentious back in 2015 known as the ‘Ryde Spot’ will remain open,” Nexsen said.
Previous proposals and actions from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were criticized by Nexsen and other public officials for being vague and overly restrictive to boaters, which was particularly concerning for Havasu’s tourism industry.
The new version of the proposal does not call for the 2.5-mile no-wake zone in the northern portion of Lake Havasu that drove much of last spring’s public outcry. But it does indicate the eastern portion of the Colorado River will be designated as no-wake backwater, something of concern for Dave Johnson who manages a popular online forum for power boaters called River Dave’s Place.
“Without the proper coordinates it’s hard to tell, but it looks like they’re running it up the center of the river, beginning at the mouth of the river,” Johnson said.
The no wake zones are established, according to the document, to protect wildlife resources and endangered species. The document points to several species of birds and fish, some that are listed as endangered, who depend on the refuge’s undisturbed natural habitat to survive.
“Though boating is an activity the Refuge is continuing to support for wildlife-dependent recreation, protection and recovery of wildlife necessitate establishment of no-wake zones in all backwaters,” the document stated.
Nexsen said some of the no wake zones presented simply codify already existing buoy areas near I-40 and Devil’s Elbow so authorities can better enforce those rules.
“Those are honestly both good things because those are very dangerous areas if you’re going any speed at all,” Nexsen said. He added, “All in all, I’m pretty encouraged from what (Meyers) has been telling us, but I’d like to reserve my final judgment.”
By BRANDON MESSICK & HALEY WALTERS TODAY’S NEWS-HERALD, July 19, 2017