On Monday, the final day of the May long weekend, Harri Herter from Kamloops takes turns and gives friends thrilling jetski rides on little Shuswap Lake. - Image credit: Rick Koch photo.

On Monday, the final day of the May long weekend, Harri Herter from Kamloops takes turns and gives friends thrilling jetski rides on little Shuswap Lake. - Image credit: Rick Koch photo.

Lawsuit challenges Jet Ski use in bay

Coalition of environmental groups says Fish and Game’s process to rescind JetSki ban was illegal

Earlier this month, a coalition of environmental organizations sued the State of Alaska, challenging a decision by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang last year to rescind a ban for personal watercraft, also called JetSkis, in the Fox River and Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Areas.

Vincent-Lang made a decision last November to open up the critical habitat areas to the highly maneuverable watercraft that are straddled and steered like motorcycles. Personal watercraft became permissible to ride in Kachemak Bay on Jan. 9. They remain prohibited in Kachemak Bay State Park and Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park.

The lawsuit came about after Cook Inletkeeper, the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park and the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition sent Gov. Mike Dunleavy a letter in March asking him to re-do the decision making process that led to the repeal of the ban. The groups argued that the process had been flawed. They argued that ADF&G officials engaged in private correspondence with JetSki proponents and ignored an established public process. After that letter got no response from Dunleavy, the groups sued.

The lawsuit alleges that ADF&G officials made a unilateral and illegal decision to change the rule before any public notice to the public; that officials ignored science and the recommendations of its own staff; that officials helped JetSki proponents draft a letter to Dunleavy urging him to change the law; and that they worked behind closed doors to circumvent the public process for revising the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Management Plan. That process had already begun looking at revisions to the plan.

JetSki proponents argue that the watercraft are no different than boats, and sought access through Kachemak Bay to other areas where they’re legal to ride. Opponents said the JetSkis are used differently than boats, and should be considered “thrill craft.”

In a joint press release, the organizations released official statements.

“The Dunleavy administration has no regard for facts or law when it comes to special favors for its supporters,” said Cook Inletkeeper. “It’s hard to imagine a more biased, illegal and undemocratic process for managing our state’s public resources.”

“The JetSki ban was removed without going through proper state procedures, and this protective ban was in place for years because it has been proven that JetSkis are disruptive and often damaging to ecosystems, wildlife and other park users,” the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park said.

“Kachemak Bay Conservation Society does not accept management of these precious areas that has zero basis in data or sound public process,” it said in the press release.

“Allowing high speed, fast maneuvering and noisy JetSkis in the area will shatter the natural soundscape and natural quiet, and disrupt wildlife and destroy the experience for people the area was designated to protect,” the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition said.

Jeff Turner, a spokesperson for Dunleavy, replied in an email that the governor does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

More in News

Ron Gillham, who represents District 30 in the Alaska House of Representatives, is seen here in this undated photo. (Courtesy Ron Gillham)
Gillham files intent to run in 2022 primary

Gillham did not indicate the office he plans to run for.

A man fishes on the Kenai River on July 16, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/file)
New bait restrictions on Kenai and Kasilof king fishing

On the Kenai River, bait will be prohibited from the mouth upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake.

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy held a press conference at the Alaska State Capitol on Thursday to say he was ready to call lawmakers into yet another special session if they didn’t rectify by Friday issues with the budget passed earlier this week.
Dunleavy calls on lawmakers to solve budget conflict

Another special session could be coming.

Bryan Quimby/Gannett Glacier Fire Crew
Part of the hose line has been laid around the perimeter of the 102-acre Loon Lake Fire to help firefighters extinguish any hot spots that are found, photographed on Thursday.
Loon Lake Fire 70% contained

The 102-acre fire was first reported on Saturday evening and is the result of lightning.

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
No new COVID cases reported on Kenai Peninsula

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 42% of people 12 and up were fully vaccinated.

A boat is lifted out of the water at Northern Enterprises Boat Yard on Kachemak Drive. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Northern Enterprise Boat Yard in Homer expands business

The largest privately owned dry dock marina in Alaska is expanding its docks and boat-lifting capabilities

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is photographed on March 26, 2020. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Food Bank reopens at 50% indoor capacity

The last time they were able to have indoor seating was Saint Patrick’s Day of 2020.

An aerial photo of the 102-acre Loon Lake Fire footprint taken at approximately 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Swan Lake is in the background to the right. (Kale Casey/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry)
Loon Lake Fire 30% contained

The fire covered about 102 acres as of Wednesday.

(Peninsula Clarion file)
Anchor Point Food Pantry looking for new home

The pantry has seen a sharp increase in patrons during the COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read