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National Park Service Enacts Two-Stroke PWC Ban On Three Major Lakes

Ten-Year-Old Legislation Goes Into Effect On Lakes Powell, Mead and Mohave


The National Park Service (NPS) is finally lowering the hammer on older, carbureted two-stroke PWC. The agency announced in December that, as of Jan. 1, 2013, personal watercraft operating on popular Lake Powell must meet 2006 emissions standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The NPS had previously delayed the implementation of this regulation to lessen the impact to personal watercraft owners who use the lake, as well as provide time for lake users to plan for the requirement.

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The move may have taken some PWC users by surprise, but in fact the fate of the two-stroke models in question was decided almost a decade ago in the “2003 Record of Decision for the Environmental Impact Statement for PWC,” aimed at reducing water and noise pollution in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. “After Dec. 31, 2012, no one may operate a PWC that does not meet 2006 emission standards set by EPA for the manufacturing of two-stroke engines,” reads a portion of the 2003 ruling. The exception? Craft with two-stroke engines that meet the 2006 emission standards through the use of direct-injection. Four-stroke models are not affected by the ban and will continue to be welcomed on the lake.


The NPS has similarly banned carbureted two-stroke models not meeting the 2006 emission standards from two other popular Western lakes, Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. The Associated Press quoted Park Superintendent Bill Dickinson saying, “concerns about the amount of fuel the old-model engines spew into the water” was the primary reason behind the ban on the two Colorado reservoirs. Lake Mead happens to be the primary source of drinking water for the city of Las Vegas.
Though established years earlier, the delay granted by the NPS has resulted in some surprise concerning the ban. Powell superintendent Todd Brindle says the NPS is actively reaching out to the boating public to inform them of the new restrictions and will take the opportunity to educate park visitors about the change come summer. To avoid confusion, the NPS plans to post a listing of personal watercraft that meet the standards online and make the information available at park entrances, visitors’ centers and marinas. The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area website features a prominent advisory to PWC users with a list of frequently asked questions. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is how park rangers will determine if a craft isn’t compliant. According to the FAQ page, rangers will take into account “operator knowledge, the model of the vessel, the engine type and whether it’s carbureted when determining compliance with the regulation.”


Though there’s no argument this day would eventually come, the fact that the significantly larger population of two-stroke outboards are exempt from the ruling doesn’t sit well with many PWC enthusiasts, nor the American Watercraft Association (AWA).

“It’s exhibit A in the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of the enviros,” argues executive director Chris Manthos.  “At the time, they didn’t care about outboards or huge inboard speed boats; it was all about persecuting personal watercraft owners. It demonstrates they don’t actually care about water quality or any other aspects of the environment; it is always about control and getting legal fees. “At the time, the National Park Service just wanted some resolution to the lawsuit (brought by environmental group Bluewater Network). They were completely unaware of the technology at the most basic levels. They refused to take technical input of the very people who created and build personal watercraft. Some things just never change.”


Manthos says the AWA is currently waiting to hear if two-stroke outboards will be restricted on the lakes in question more than a decade after PWC were singled out. “Again, it shows the utter hypocrisy and non-existent ethics of mega corporate environmental organizations.”

While the AWA has successfully defeated two-stroke bans in other areas, and has been educating riders about the Powell, Mead and Mohave restrictions for some time, Manthos unfortunately notes the association has few resources to reverse an outcome decided a decade earlier.

 “AWA was the only organization standing up to these people,” he recalls. “My predecessors did the best they could have, given the limited resources at hand.


“This should serve as a wake-up call as to what happens when the PWC community fails to stand as one. The entire motorsports community needs to recognize what they face, and organize … now! Keep customers informed and get them involved. If we don’t, there won’t be any customers left.” 

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