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REGULATION BANNING POPULAR WATERCRAFT FROM SANCTUARY WATERS TO BE CHALLENGED

 WASHINGTON, July 6 /PRNewswire/ -- A lawsuit challenging the federal government's closure of certain Northern California waters to so-called personal watercraft has been filed here.
 The Personal Watercraft Industry Association (PWIA), a watercraft dealer, and an owner are taking issue with regulations published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which virtually prohibit use of a few small vessels in the recently designated Monterey (Calif.) Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
 Personal watercraft, better known by brand names such as Kawasaki Jet Ski and Yamaha WaveRunner, have been prohibited since January from using more than 99 percent of this 4,000-square-mile area of the Pacific Ocean. The NOAA regulation imposes no access restrictions on the use of the same waters by all other motorized vessels, including small motorboats and large oil tankers.
 According to Michael Wiegard, attorney for the plaintiffs, the lawsuit isn't challenging the designation of the area as a Sanctuary, or any of the other NOAA regulations governing the area. Rather, he said, "We cannot accept the apparent discriminatory actions taken against a small number of watercraft when there is no basis in the administrative record for concluding that they would have an adverse impact on Sanctuary resources."
 Wiegard said the lawsuit seeks to enjoin only that portion of the NOAA regulations that virtually ban personal watercraft while allowing all other vessels to continue to travel throughout the Sanctuary.
 He explained that "there is no documented basis for distinguishing between personal watercraft and other vessels with respect to actual or potential impact on the ecosystem of the area."
 NOAA adopted the regulations last September following a two-year rulemaking process considering the various recreational and commercial uses of the area. In 1990, NOAA found no evidence to support a ban on personal watercraft. According to Wiegard, no new factual evidence was presented during the rulemaking procedure to justify NOAA's complete reversal of position.
 The attorney pointed out that personal watercraft users, like other boaters, are subject to existing federal, state, and local laws protecting marine life and specifying permissible boating practices and use areas.
 In 1992, Congress directed NOAA to undertake a comprehensive study of all vessel use in the Sanctuary and to report next year on the need for vessel traffic regulations. Unlike other vessels, personal watercraft have essentially been regulated prior to any study determining a need for regulation, said Wiegard.
 "The public is better served by a thorough evaluation of all vessel uses in the Sanctuary rather than an ill-conceived ban on a small sub- category of vessels," he said.
 The industry association, which represents Arctco Inc., Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A., Surf Jet International Ltd., WetJet International Ltd., and Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A., finds fault with the agency's approach.
 According to attorney Wiegard, "plaintiffs are concerned that the government has decided to regulate first, and study later."
 There has also been a question raised as to the government's definition of a personal watercraft, for purposes of prohibition.
 Users and industry experts point to the seeming discrepancies in the regulation, which prohibit some, but not all, of the well-known Jet Ski and WaveRunner-branded vessels, yet do not restrict numerous boats with the same size and speed characteristics.
 Wiegard said the plaintiffs are filing the lawsuit only after efforts had been made through the petition process to have NOAA reconsider its regulations, but the agency refused. He said the industry association would prefer to spend its resources on consumer education activities rather than legal actions.
 Filed simultaneously with the lawsuit is a motion for an injunction to prevent enforcement of the regulation while the legal action is pending.
 -0- 7/6/93
 /CONTACT: Michael A. Wiegard, 202-223-9000/


CO: Personal Watercraft Industry Association; National Oceanic and
 Atmospheric Administration ST: District of Columbia, California IN: MAR ENV SU:


JB-JL -- LA007 -- 8502 07/06/93 09:04 EDT
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Date:Jul 6, 1993
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