Officials at Gateway National Recreation Area are considering reversing a federal ban and allowing the limited use of Jet Skis, Waverunners and other personal watercraft in Jamaica Bay.
Billy Garrett, acting general superintendent for the national park, said the agency drafted an environmental assessment, or EA, that examines the potential impact watercraft would have on Jamaica Bay. He said Gateway officials will now consider written public responses to the environmental report and then, based on those comments, decide how to proceed.
"This is an important first step," Garrett said. "However, it is only the beginning of the process. A preferred alternative will not be finalized until all public comment on the EA has been considered."
Garrett outlined three alternatives to a federal ban on PWCs that took effect in all National Park Service waters in April 2002. Gateway has the option of amending the national ban because of its recreational status.
Public comment will be based on options to the ban facing Gateway officials ranging from continuing all aspects of the ban to allowing limited use of watercraft based on geography, Gateway spokesman Brian Feeney said.
He said the preferred alternative to the ban would give some people access to the Atlantic Ocean through the national park via established routes used by boats and oil tankers.
"(The plan) will confine users to navigable channels," he said. "But we cannot finalize anything until public comment is taken into account."
Under alternative B, the plan Feeney said the park deemed the preferred option to the ban, PWC users who do not live around Jamaica Bay would be prohibited from landing on or launching their craft from National Park Service land; however, craft owners living adjacent to the park's creeks, basins and waterways would be allowed access through the bay.
The plan also calls for a 150-foot buffer to be established around all protected areas within Jamaica Bay.
The other alternatives would be similar to alternative B, but specify different geographic locations where personal watercraft would and would not be allowed.
"It is a time-consuming process," Feeney said. "There is no way anything is going to change for PWC users this season."
Garrett said the public can review the draft environmental assessment from May 15 to June 16 by either contacting the national park at 718-354-4606 for a hard copy or downloading it from the Internet at www.nps.gov/gate.
All written comments on the report should be sent to General Superintendent, Gateway National Recreation Area, 210 New York Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10305.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2003 Community News Group
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