FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT TO REVISE COLORADO RIVER MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK NOW AVAILABLE

Grand Canyon, AZ - Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent, Joseph F. Alston, today announced the availability of the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) to revise the Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP) for Grand Canyon National Park. The National Park Service (NPS) prepared the FEIS for the CRMP under the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The Hualapai Tribe was a cooperating agency in the preparation of the EIS.

Publication of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Notice of Availability (NOA) in the Federal Register on November 10, 2005 initiates a 30-day no-action period. Although the NPS is not accepting public comment on the FEIS, the document is available for public review. Following the 30-day no-action period, a Record of Decision (ROD) will be prepared that documents the NPS decision and rationale for that decision. The ROD will be released to the public and a summary will be published in the Federal Register.

A complete copy of the FEIS can be downloaded at www.nps.gov/grca/crmp. A CD with the complete document is also available by sending an email to grca_crmp@nps.gov or writing to CRMP Team at P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon AZ 86023.

The FEIS identifies and evaluates a full range of alternatives and comprehensively evaluates effects to natural and cultural resources, visitor and wilderness experience, and socioeconomic conditions from visitor uses on the Colorado River. The FEIS includes the modified NPS preferred alternatives for management of 277 miles of the Colorado River.

"We believe our process has been open minded, transparent and fair," stated Superintendent Alston, adding, "we have spent the last several years listening to and responding to a wide range of comments from individuals, groups, and organizations."

The proposed CRMP is a visitor use management plan which specifies actions to preserve park resources and the visitor experience, while enhancing recreational opportunities. The plan is intended to cover at least the next 10 years, and will also establish goals and objectives for a longer timeframe.

For the FEIS, the Colorado River is divided into two geographic sections that recognize the different management zones on the river, with a specific set of alternatives for each section. The first section of river is from Lees Ferry (River Mile [RM] 0) to Diamond Creek (RM 226). The second section is from Diamond Creek (RM 226) to Lake Mead (RM 277).

Where the Hualapai Reservation and Grand Canyon National Park share boundaries, the Colorado River Management Plan describes management zones that reflect the variety and intensity of visitor activities, particularly in the river segments downstream of Diamond Creek. The plan addresses cooperative management issues with neighboring units of the national park system, tribal governments, and other agencies with jurisdiction or interests affected by, or that may themselves affect, management of the Colorado River corridor in the park.

Eight alternatives were developed for the Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek section, a no-action alternative (Alternative A), plus Alternatives B through H. Modified Alternative H is the preferred alternative. Modified Alternative H is a mixed motor/no-motor alternative with 5.5 months of mixed use occurring from April 1 through September 15, and 6.5 months of non-motorized use from September 16 through March 31. It is characterized by smaller group sizes and fewer daily allowable launches except during winter months. This alternative would allow for a moderate increase in estimated yearly passenger totals. The NPS would allow passenger exchanges at Whitmore only during the mixed-use period, April 1 through September 15, and in the non-motorized season only for those trips launching during the mixed-use period.

Five alternatives were developed for the section of river from Diamond Creek to Lake Mead, a no-action alternative (Alternative 1) plus Alternatives 2 through 5. Modified Alternative 4 is the NPS preferred alternative. Modified Alternative 4 is characterized by use limits and a redistribution of Hualapai River Runner (HRR) operations. This alternative represents a consensus between Grand Canyon National Park and the Hualapai Tribe on levels of HRR use and other uses originating at Diamond Creek. However, Modified Alternative 4 represents the NPS's preference for lower levels of pontoon boat use compared to levels proposed by the Hualapai Tribe. Peak daily use for commercial day trips launching from Diamond Creek would be comparable to current conditions, with smaller maximum group sizes, while commercial overnight trips could increase from a current average of three launches per month to up to three launches per day. The number of pontoon boat passengers in the Quartermaster area would be capped at 480 per day, but could increase to 600 per day based on favorable performance reviews and resource monitoring data. No jet boat tours would be allowed, and upriver travel would continue to be allowed up to River Mile 240.

The NPS preferred option for an allocation system is the No Action/Split Allocation system, which continues to allocate use between the commercial and noncommercial sectors in a ratio that is reflected in the preferred alternative. This ratio would remain the same for the life of the plan.

The NPS preferred option for the noncommercial permit system is a "hybrid," weighted lottery for trip leaders. Each year a single lottery would take place and result in the initial awarding of the following year's noncommercial launch opportunities. Chances in the lottery would vary depending on whether or not applicants had been on a river trip recently.

A transition from the current waitlist to the new system would be instituted, and is outlined in the FEIS.

Once the ROD has been published, an implementation and monitoring plan will be developed that outlines how the NPS will implement the provisions specified in the ROD. The final CRMP, including the implementation and monitoring plan, will be published and made available to all interested parties.

Background on the CRMP process:

The first CRMP was developed for Grand Canyon in 1979. It was updated several times, and was the subject of two lawsuits in 2000-2001. Settlement of one of the lawsuits began the current effort to update the CRMP in the spring of 2002; public scoping meetings were held throughout the country in summer and fall 2002. A Draft EIS was released for public review and comment on October 8, 2004. Public comments were accepted through February 1, 2005. Public meetings were again held throughout the country during the fall of 2004. A substantial number of public comments were received through these outreach efforts.

Major issues and concerns regarding resource protection, visitor experience and services raised during the 2002 and 2004/2005 public processes include:

  • Appropriate levels of visitor use consistent with natural and cultural resource protection, visitor experience goals, and wilderness character
  • Allocation of use between commercial and noncommercial groups
  • Noncommercial permit system
  • Appropriate levels of motorized and nonmotorized boat use
  • Determination of the range of public services
  • Levels of helicopter use to transport river passengers to and from the river
  • Appropriate levels and types of upstream travel from Lake Mead
  • Quality of river trips including crowding, trip length, group size, and scheduling issues
  • Administrative use

A revised CRMP is needed to address both long-standing and recent issues concerning resource protection, visitor experience, and public services along the river; to consider the impacts of the NPS river management on federally recognized American Indian tribes whose reservations adjoin Grand Canyon National Park; and to fulfill the requirements of a 2002 agreement that settled the lawsuit about the river management plan.

Note: Copies of the document will also be available at the following libraries:

Flagstaff Public Library (East and West), Flagstaff, Arizona
Cline Library, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona
Phoenix Public Library, Phoenix, Arizona
Denver Central Library, Denver, Colorado
Salt Lake City Library, Salt Lake City, Utah
North Las Vegas Library, Las Vegas, Nevada
San Francisco Library, San Francisco, California
Page Public Library, Page, Arizona
Kanab City Library, Kanab, Utah

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