PWC comment period is through September 30

PWC comment period is through September 30 The National Park Service is commencing a 90-day public comment period on the agency's recent personal watercraft (PWC) ban on the Missouri National Recreational River.

The comment period was particularly requested by US Congressman John Thune, who expressed concern that South Dakotans and Nebraskans had not been given a sufficient opportunity to be heard on the matter.

In announcing the comment period, the NPS's superintendent of the Missouri National Recreational River, Paul Hedren, shared Thune's interest in hearing from residents in the region.

"In fact," Hedren said, "we need to hear from all with a personal interest in the issue, including fishermen, riverfront land owners, personal watercraft users, other river recreation users, law enforcement agencies and the environmental community. All are impacted in one way or another by these craft."

Citing concerns over user safety, visitor conflicts and environmental harm, on April 20 the NPS approved a system-wide ban on personal watercraft on all national park waters, with few exceptions. The matter raised immediate concerns of PWC users on the 98-mile, two-segment Missouri National Recreational River, where PWC use is popular.

The Missouri River unit of the national park system was established by Congress in 1978 and expanded in 1991 to preserve these free-flowing segments of the river.

Balancing competing visitor demands, resource preservation concerns and evolving societal and environmental needs lie at the heart of the PWC issue. Hedren particularly asks responders to comment on these competing and often conflicting visitor demands.

Can advocates and opponents each be served? Can the river's wildlife be shielded from intrusive access allowed by PWCs? Can the inherent noise and pollution from these craft be mitigated? These and similar issues will factor in the NPS's analysis and response once the comment period closes.

Written comments should be sent to National Park Service, Missouri National Recreational River, PO Box 591, O'Neill,

NE, 68763. Electronic mail

responses can be sent to mnrr_pwc@nps.gov. The comment period closes Sept. 30.

Results from the comment period will be announced jointly by the National Park Service and Thune this fall. Depending on the comments received, the park may request that the NPS study the impacts of PWC use on the Missouri National Recreational River.

The ultimate outcome could be a special regulation proposed for allowing controlled PWC use on these segments of the Missouri, or enforcement of the existing ban as promulgated.

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