Point of View: PWC ban repeal is about equal access for all watercraft

I feel like I need to address some concerns and comments printed in different news medias from Bob Shavelson with Cook Inlet keeper and Robert Archibald, board member of both Friends of Kachemak Bay and chairperson of the Kachemak Bay State Park Advisory Board.

First off, we all know the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages the Kachemak Bay State Parks side of Kachemak Bay and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) manages the rest of the waters of Kachemak Bay. The waters that ADF&G manages includes the Alaska Marine highway, as well as access to Seldovia and great fishing grounds for halibut as well as salmon.

I have been working with both departments trying to come to a compromise with these two areas of the bay in regards to personal watercraft (PWC) use and the updated revision of the Kachemak Bay and Fox River Flats Critical Habitat Areas Management plan for 20 years. In all my meetings, conversations, and letters it has always been conveyed that ADF&G will just follow whatever DNR says and does. Finally after 20 years of letters, meetings and conversations, we have an administration who actually listened and reviewed information presented to them (I personally did a 200 page “analysis” in 2012 regarding all the information on personal watercraft), which also included the national parks findings that no evidence exists that states a personal watercraft is detrimental to the environment or habitat that would be any different from other boats. In fact, personal watercraft manufactured today are four-stroke engines and are actually cleaner and quieter than a majority of the boats in operation all over, which includes Kachemak Bay. Makers of Sea-Doo brand PWC have what is called the Intelligent brake and reverse system (iBR) which allows you to stop up to 160 feet sooner than watercraft (boats) not using a brake.

I take great offense with Bob’s propaganda campaign as labeling personal watercraft as thrill craft. He cannot find any valid scientific evidence against a personal watercraft, so he wants everyone to believe their owners and operators are some kind of renegade. I travel to Valdez, Cordova, Kenai, Kodiak and areas along the Big Susitna River, to name a few, and I fish, camp and sight see using my personal watercraft. He attacks our governor about ramming Jet Skis into our local waters by listing about 20 lakes in the Mat Su Valley that if we allow personal watercraft in Kachemak Bay we should allow them in all these lakes. Seriously, the 20 lakes Shavelson listed combined come to about 2,500 surface acres, while Kachemak Bay is about 220,000 acres. Horsepower limits are what sets them apart and would be reasonable to apply in some of the State Parks waters in question.

Robert Archibald says he thinks that more time should be given than the 30-day comment period and that ADF&G should provide science-based evidence for their reasoning for the repeal. Seriously, where is the science-based evidence that was used to ban them 20 years ago? When Joe Meehan of the Habitat & Restoration Division of ADF&G did a literature review in 2000, his conclusion cited two studies were done both with conflicting outcome. Those studies were done on a specific type of bird flushing distances.

Robert also stated “nobody’s addressed the fact that they are still an influence on waterborne habitat.” Where is that “fact” coming from? Where’s the study to back that allegation? What does he mean by this?

The Alaska’s State Constitution makes it clear. Article 8, Section 3. Common Use says “…. waters are reserved to the people for common use.”

This is simply an equal access issue. Kachemak Bay is a huge body of water where all boats should be allowed to travel whether you sit in or on the boat. Let me ask you this in closing, when you go on a cruise or out fishing do you say “I’m on the ship now” or “I’m in the ship?” Likewise, I’m on the fishing boat or in the fishing boat?

Gina Poths grew up in Montana and moved to Alaska in 1986. She has worked for the Municipality of Anchorage for more than 20 years and is an avid boater and outdoor enthusiast. She is a founding member of the Personal Watercraft Club of Alaska and says she strives “to promote a positive image and boating safety for all watercraft and their owners.”