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Personal Watercraft Industry Association Responds to National Park Service Ruling to Restrict Personal Watercraft Use in National Parks.

Business Editors


Since 1996 the National Park Service (NPS) has been developing rules concerning operation of personal watercraft (PWC) in national park units.

Today, the NPS issued a final rule which, as expected, tentatively allows PWC use in some parks and bans their use in others.

"We have always believed that PWC use belongs in some areas, but not others," says Larry Lambrose, executive director of the Personal Watercraft Industry Association (PWIA). "It is disappointing that NPS has, for the most part, heeded the unsubstantiated views of a few extremist groups whose agenda is to restrict all recreational activities from national parks. The PWIA is, however, looking forward to working with those NPS units which still allow PWC use."

"This is not a total ban," continued Lambrose. "We're confident that working with all sides the NPS can find management approaches and compromise solutions which will continue to permit Americans to recreate in their national parks. These multi-use management solutions should balance the choices and rights of everyone"

According to Lambrose, the rule issued today is about yesterday's problems, not today's products. Since 1996, the PWC industry has made great strides in developing new technologies which has led to an over 50% reduction in sound and emissions from PWC. The industry plans to continue this progress. The PWC industry is in compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules which require a 75% reduction in emissions by 2006.

"As PWC become cleaner and quieter, we hope the NPS will take another look at allowing PWC in more areas, " says Lambrose. "In the meantime, we look forward to working with the NPS to ensure safe and responsible PWC use in areas which allow the activity."

The PWIA is an affiliate of the National Marine Manufacturers Association and represents the four major PWC manufacturers: Bombardier Recreational Products; Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.; Polaris Industries Inc.; and Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A. The PWIA web site is located at

Editor's note: The PWIA's response to common myths and misperceptions about PWC and PWC use follows.

Myths vs. Facts

Myth: Personal Watercraft (PWC) are more polluting than conventional boats.

Fact: PWC two-cycle engines are no different than outboard two-cycle engines. Over 90 percent of all recreational outboard motorboats use the same two-cycle engines as PWC. PWC engines do not mysteriously produce more emissions than similar horsepower outboards utilized by sailboats that use outboard engines, life saving and rescue boats, harbor patrol boats, fishing boats, inflatables and almost all other pleasure boats. The EPA found that hydrocarbon exhaust emissions from all recreational boats account for only three percent of the nation's total hydrocarbon emissions. As PWC represent only about nine percent of the recreational boats in the country, the actual hydrocarbon emissions from PWC are much less than one percent of the total (0.3 percent). So, when the claim is made that PWC are more "polluting" than conventional boats, the exact opposite is actually true.

Myth: PWC leak more oil each year than the Exxon Valdez spill.

Fact: This is not true. PWC emissions only account for a fraction of all two-stroke engines. There are about nine times more two-stroke engines from recreational outboard motorboats than PWC engines on the water. The fact is that the material discharged from the Exxon Valdez tragedy was a very concentrated spill of liquid, non-volatile heavy crude oil into a small area of water. This spill was so concentrated that it overwhelmed nature's ability to biodegrade it. This situation is totally different than the relatively small amount of hot exhaust and gasoline vapors that quickly pass through the water and evaporate into the atmosphere behind conventional boat and PWC motors.

Myth: An average two hour ride on a PWC dumps three gallons of gas and oil into the water, causing water pollution.

Fact: It is inaccurate to say that using a conventional technology two-stroke engine is the same as pouring raw gas or oil in the water. The engine's combustion process heats fuel to a temperature of several hundred degrees. While it is true that fuel hydrocarbons are expelled through the engine's exhaust, hydrocarbons do not have the same properties as raw gas or oil. Some of the hydrocarbons are released into the water, and they rise quickly to the surface and are easily released into the atmosphere. In addition, published environmental impact studies indicate that the amount of unburned fuel in the form of hydrocarbons getting into the water is very small. Recent EPA data indicates that hydrocarbon emissions from all boats contribute a mere three percent of all hydrocarbon emissions in the United States.

Myth: PWC discharge harmful gasoline constituents like benzene, toluene and xylene into waters, thus creating potential drinking water hazards.

Fact: This is not true, and not supported by actual "on the water" studies. In fact, recent data from water reservoir studies done by the East Bay Municipal Utility District and Metropolitan Water District, both located in California, indicate that benzene, ethyl benzene, toluene and xylene were virtually undetectable. These results continue to support the National Marine Manufacturers Association's position that recreational boating does not constitute any threat to drinking water supplies. Some extreme environmental groups point to a 1993 study that they purport to back up their claim. The study, however, was conducted under non-representative conditions (a two-cycle outboard engine, not a PWC engine, running in a tank to simulate on-water conditions) which make any "real life" and "on water" extrapolations extremely questionable.

Myth: PWC cause the majority of MBTE emissions into surface water bodies.

Fact: Leaking underground fuel storage tanks and pipeline spills are the major sources of MBTE emissions in surface waters. In the 16 states that mandate MBTE reformulated gasoline, a blue ribbon government advisory panel cited leaky underground fuel tanks, fuel spills while refueling motor vehicles and lawn mowers, and all recreational boat engines (not just PWC) as emission sources of MBTE. As reported by the Associated Press, the advisory panel, made up of diverse interests from environmentalists to oil industry executives, found that while reformulated gasoline has contributed to significant air-quality improvements, MTBE poses a growing threat to drinking water. The AP report further quoted Daniel Greenbaum, president of the Boston-based Health Effects Institute and chairman of the advisory panel as stating "We're not saying there's a public health threat now. We're trying to prevent what has become a low-level, widespread problem from becoming a larger and worse problem." The recreational marine industry supports the EPA's position that recommends limiting MTBE use, as well bringing alternatives to MTBE into widespread use.

Myth: American manufacturers are lagging behind European counterparts who produce machines that are 80 percent cleaner than those sold in the United States.

Fact: The boating industry is primarily a United States industry. The PWIA is unaware of any European manufacturers of PWC.

Myth: The Tahoe Regional Planning Council has banned all two-stroke engines from Lake Tahoe.

Fact: This is not true. Any personal watercraft that meets EPA 2001 emissions standards is allowed to operate on Lake Tahoe until Oct. 1, 2001. After Oct. 1, 2001, four-stroke engines, direct fuel injection two-stroke engines and any other watercraft engine that meets EPA 2006 emissions standards will be allowed to operate on the lake indefinitely. All manufacturers have products available that will be allowed to operate on Lake Tahoe through Oct. 1, 2001. Most manufacturers have direct injection (DI) two-strokes which meet EPA 2006 standards

Myth: PWC operators are young, irresponsible thrill-seekers.

Fact: This is not true. The latest industry research shows that the typical PWC owner is a middle-aged, highly educated and successful businessperson. The average age of owners is 41, with two-thirds over 35. The majority (71%) are married with families. The majority are not interested in any type of intense physical activity when using their watercraft, but are more likely to use them for short cruises (62%), and to entertain visiting friends or family (61%).

Myth: PWC produce noise levels in the range of 85-105 decibels per unit.

Fact: Numerous studies and tests demonstrate that PWC emit considerably less noise per unit, are quieter than most recreational motorboats, and fall comfortably within accepted and legal boat noise standards. In fact, PWC sound is one of the most well-documented aspects of the sport. Numerous respected groups have studied PWC sound

-- the Society of Automotive Engineers, the International Marine Environment Committee (IMEC) -- and all have found PWC sound levels to be less, sometimes considerably less, than some claim. An independent study by the Society of Automotive Engineers found that PWC fall well within the noise level ranges for other small motorized vehicles. Independent tests in a study conducted on Lake Tahoe in 1992 reached the same conclusion. That study concluded that PWC fall below the noise standards established by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (82 decibels at fifty feet) and were, in fact, quieter than some other motorized recreational vessels operating on the lake. The IMEC sound study in Florida found that PWC emit between 64 dB(A) and 73 dB(A) at average throttle (25 meters) and 72 dB(A) and 79 dB(A) at full throttle (25 meters) -- again lower than some other motorized boats and within accepted boat noise levels.

Myth: PWC are noisier than other boats, and they are particularly annoying to other marine users, shoreline hikers and wildlife.

Fact: Independent tests show that even the older-generation PWC (1998 models and older) are often quieter than many boats on the water. Nevertheless, the industry has responded to critics' demands for quieter watercraft. New technology has enabled manufacturers to develop 1999 watercraft that are 50 to 70 percent quieter than similar 1998 models. While most PWC owners operate their craft in a responsible manner, certain operators may use their vessels irresponsibly. This type of behavior is seen in traditional boats as well. In virtually every community, laws currently exist which prohibit such irresponsible behavior. In addition, federal statutes such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Protection Act afford marine mammals and other wildlife considerable protection. The PWIA strongly supports strict law enforcement to protect all wildlife from the negative impacts of all boaters.

Myth: PWC, with their shallow draft, penetrate shallow waters and harm vulnerable seagrasses and aquatic life more than other boats.

Fact: Because PWC are jet-powered they have minimal impact on seagrasses, marine mammals, fish and other aquatic life. And, because they have no exposed propeller, they are incapable of cutting swaths through sea grasses or injuring marine animals. Although the small draft of the PWC allows it to operate in shallower water than other boats, aquatic vegetation deters operation in these areas. PWC obtain water for engine cooling through the jet pump. Aquatic vegetation, if they are drawn into the pump, cause a condition known as "fouling." The aquatic vegetation could also cause serious engine damage if drawn into engine cooling passages; so most PWC operators avoid riding in these areas. Furthermore, a 1997 study by Continental Shelf Associates found no differences in the abundance of seagrasses or other bottom dwelling life following intensive personal watercraft operations in only two feet of water.

Myth: PWC are more disruptive to waterfowl than other forms of recreation.

Fact: There is no scientific data to support this contention. There is evidence, however, that all recreational boating, including sailing, can disturb waterfowl. Research by Sutcliff (1979) noted that there was a 50 percent decline in the numbers of New Hampshire lakes used by the Common Loon from 1929-1979. This occurred prior to any PWC use on the lakes. Another study by Tuite, Hanson and Owen (1984) on 384 lakes in Great Britain found the highest negative effects on waterfowl from fishing and sailing. However, a study of the effects of recreational activity on wintering bald eagles (Stalmaster, 1998) found that hikers were more disturbing to eagles than fishing boats. The PWC industry has long supported the view that there are some waterways that are inappropriate for use by any powerboats or certain power-boating activities. The industry is concerned, however, with wholesale elimination or restriction of PWC from some waters when similar boating activities are allowed.
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Date:Mar 21, 2000
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