National Park Service Preparing Environmental Impact Statement for Use of Personal Watercraft

National Park Service (NPS), Interior- Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Personal Watercraft Use at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi.

Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the NPS is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the impacts of Personal Watercraft (PWC) use at Gulf Islands National Seashore (GUIS).

Personal Watercraft use emerged at GUIS in the 1980s and was
permitted in units of the national park system under the same
regulations as other motorized watercraft. However, on March 21, 2000,
the NPS published a regulation governing PWC use within all units of
the national park system (65 FR 15077, codified at 36 CFR 3.24). This
regulation prohibits PWC use in all national park units unless the NPS
determines that this type of water-based recreational activity is
appropriate for the specific park unit based on the legislation
establishing that park, the park's resources and values, other visitor
uses of the area, and overall management objectives.
    In 2004, the NPS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a
special regulation to allow continued PWC use at GUIS. The purpose of
the EA was to evaluate a range of alternatives and strategies for the
management of PWC use at GUIS to ensure the protection of park
resources and values, while offering recreational opportunities as
provided for in the GUIS enabling legislation, purpose, mission, and
goals. A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was signed on January
25, 2006. The NPS published the final regulation for PWC use at GUIS in
the Federal Register on May 4, 2006 (71 FR 26232).
    On May 15, 2008, a lawsuit was filed claiming that the PWC EA was
deficient and violated NEPA, the NPS Organic Act, and the
Administrative Procedure Act. On July 8, 2010, the U.S. District Court
for the District of Columbia found that the impact analysis in the EA
was inadequate. The court did not vacate the current PWC rule at GUIS,
but remanded the case to the NPS ``so that it may have an opportunity
to provide adequate reasoning for its conclusions.'' The special
regulation remains in effect at GUIS and PWC are currently still
allowed to operate under the restrictions identified in the park's
special regulation. At this time, the NPS intends to address the
deficiencies identified by the court by preparing an EIS for PWC use at
GUIS, which will include supplemental documentation, impact analyses
not present in the earlier EA, and may include additional alternatives.

 

DATES: Interested individuals, organizations, and agencies are
encouraged to provide written comments regarding the scope of issues to
be addressed in the EIS. The NPS will accept comments from the public
for 60 days from the date that this Notice of Intent is published in
the Federal Register or 15 days after the last public scoping meeting,
whichever is later. NPS intends to hold public scoping meetings on the
PWC EIS in the vicinity of GUIS, including both the Florida (Gulf
Breeze/Pensacola Beach Area) and Mississippi (Ocean Springs/Biloxi/
Pascagoula Area) Districts during this scoping period. Specific dates,
times, and locations will be made available in the local media and on
the NPS's Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) Web site at
http://parkplanning.nps.gov/guis-PWC-EIS. The scoping meetings will
also be announced via a park press release and through email
notification to the individuals and organizations on the park's mailing
list. The NPS will provide additional opportunities for the public to
provide written comments upon publication of the draft EIS.

ADDRESSES: Information will be available for public review online at
http://parkplanning.nps.gov/guis-PWC-EIS and in the office of the
Superintendent, 1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Brown, Superintendent, Gulf
Islands National Seashore, 1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, FL
32563; telephone  (850) 916-3023.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: If you wish to comment during the scoping
process, you may use any one of several methods. The preferred method
for submitting comments is on the NPS PEPC Web site at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/guis-PWC-EIS. You may also mail or hand-deliver
your comments on the PWC EIS to the Superintendent, Gulf Islands National
Seashore, 1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563. Oral
statements and written comments will also be accepted during scheduled
public meetings. Comments will not be accepted by fax, email, or in any
other method than those specified above. Comments in any format (hard
copy or electronic) submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted.
Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other
personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware
that your entire comment--including your personal identifying
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be
able to do so.
    The responsible official for this Notice of Intent is the Regional
Director, Southeast Region, NPS, 100 Alabama Street SW., 1924 Building,
Atlanta, Georgia 30303.