Lake Mead Update: Water Levels, Jet Skies, Personal Watercraft Laws - 8 News NOW

Lake Mead Update: Water Levels, Jet Skies, Personal Watercraft Laws

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(May 27) -- Memorial Day weekend is a time when lots of people begin to hit the water again.  One of the hottest topics on the water these day are the use of jet skies, or 'personal watercraft' as they are sometime called.

Those who took their boats to the lake noticed the lower lake levels caused by the drought. Volunteer patrol crews marked off areas where reefs have been exposed due to lower water levels. Those who patrol the lake say the low lake levels and a lack of knowledge by some boaters are a bigger problem on Lake Mead than intoxicated boaters. 

Boaters at Lake Mead are dealing with new regulations this summer.   Among the new laws: children 12-years old and younger must be in properly fitted life jackets.   Also the legal age to drive watercraft has been raised from 12- to 14- years old and they must take a boating safety class before operating any watercraft.

Authorities are also cracking down on intoxicated boat drivers.  The new laws are aimed at increasing safety on the lake.

States have begun requiring a license to drive those things and some lakes and waterways are banning them because of the noise.  Here is a state-by-state list of the laws.

Here is Nevada's:

Nevada = Persons between the ages of 14 and 18 wishing to operate a pwc, must complete one of several boat safety courses that is recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard and have the certificate of completion on their possession when operating a pwc. Absolutely no one under the age of 14 can operate a pwc. Mandatory PFD and safety lanyard or engine kill switch is required. This new age law went into effect January 1 2003.

One of the loudest opponents to jet skis is the Bluewater Network environmental group.  The group's website says, "At Lake Mead in Nevada, the Park Service estimates that on a busy weekend jet skis release 27,000 gallons of gas and oil into the park's waters. Unlike motorboats, jet skis are designed to maneuver into remote, shallow areas where a variety fragile plants and animals live. Studies have shown that jet ski users routinely harass waterfowl in their nesting areas, as well as marine mammals such as dolphins, seals, humpback whales, and manatees.  (In April, Lake Mead was opened []to personal watercraft again.)"

Bluewater Network claims, "Personal watercraft are often a nuisance and a safety threat. Boaters, shoreline hikers, and wildlife enthusiasts complain that the noise from personal watercraft ruin their outdoor experience. Moreover, the injury rates associated with jet ski use are more than eight times higher than those for motorboats."

The jet ski enthusiasts are represented by the American Watercraft Association.

The National Parks Service banned the use of jet skis in some parks but recently opened some others. See the list here.

Lake Powell, the dominant feature of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, located on the border of Utah and Arizona and one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States, just reopened on May 10th to personal watercraft after years of being closed.

According to a 2000 study for the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, "Jet ski noise is different from that of motorboats. The heart of the difference, and the crux of the jet ski noise problem, is that jet skis continually leave the water. This magnifies their noise impact in two ways. First, minus the muffling effect of the water, the jet ski engine's exhaust is much louder, typically by 15 dBA. As a result, an airborne jet ski has the same noise impact on a listener at the water's edge as an in-water jet ski 8 times further away, or the same as 32 identical in-water jet skis at the same distance. Second, each time the jet ski re-enters the water, it smacks the surface with an explosive "whomp" - sometimes with a series of them."


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