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6:24 PM Tue, Oct. 23rd

Gosar, McCain lead boating regulations fight with Feds

U.S. Representative Paul Gosar (left) and Senator John McCain

U.S. Representative Paul Gosar (left) and Senator John McCain

It's no secret that U.S. Representative Paul Gosar and Senator John McCain are not satisfied with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's response to their request to drop the proposed restrictions that the Service is proposing for the Colorado River and the Topock Marsh, which are part of the Havasu Wildlife Refuge.

Gosar has been spearheading the effort that resulted in public meetings in Lake Havasu City and at the Avi Resort and Casino in Laughlin, Nev. More than 1,000 people attended the Lake Havasu City meeting and to say passions are running high is an understatement.

McCain and Gosar are not the only ones who are upset with USFWS over this proposal. Add to the list the mayors of Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City and even Kingman. Then there are the thousands of Mohave County residents who have openly stated their opposition.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors came out against the proposal and so did the Arizona Game & Fish Commission. Now, U.S. Senator Jeff Flake has joined the fray, so it appears that all the heavy hitters are taking on the USFWS and its misguided and ill-planned regulations dealing with the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.

Gosar and company asked the Service for a 60-day extension for more public input, but USFWS declined, and offered up just a 30-day extension.

So now the heavy hitting politicians have taken on a new tactic. They are going after the funding for the USFWS with an amendment that they have offered for legislation that partially funds this massive federal entity.

According to a press release by McCain, currently a portion of federal taxes that boaters pay on fuel is deposited into the Federal Highway Trust Fund. A portion of those funds is normally allocated to the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund to be used by agencies including the USFWS.

In the latest move to force the Service to rethink its proposal, which is an example of an organization that is completely out of touch with the constituency they serve, Senators McCain and Flake have added an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill that would adversely impact the USFWS.

If passed, it could cause a funding issue for the USFWS.

McCain noted, "we believe that USFWS should not be permitted to use boaters' tax dollars to unduly restrict access to one of the most popular boating locations in Arizona. The USFWS should rethink its proposal and listen to the concerns raised by the citizens of Mohave County whose lives and livelihoods depend on outdoor recreation."

According to Senator Flake, "nothing is making more waves in Lake Havasu than the USFWS failure to engage with the community before advancing this economically disastrous proposal. It's my hope that further budget reductions will not be necessary before USFWS abandons these ill-conceived restrictions on recreational boating at Lake Havasu."

I recently spoke with Scott Poppenberger, the Regional Supervisor for Arizona Game & Fish Department in Kingman, about this proposal. Poppenberger told me that the department is responding to this proposal (they don't like it), but it was important that you, the sportsman or recreational boater, write in to the USFWS and let them know your feelings.

Wouldn't hurt to send a copy of your letter to the USFWS to Rep. Gosar, and Sens. McCain and Flake, too.

If you haven't read the proposal, go on the USFWS website and read it.

There is still time for you to send in comments to the USFWS.

To me, and this is just my opinion, the language in the proposal is confusing, and in one area that is painfully clear, the proposed restrictions of horsepower for watercraft using the Topock Marsh (under 30 hp) is totally unreasonable and not needed.

You can send in your comments by email, or by mail at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, Attn: Draft Recreational Boating CD, 317 Mesquite Avenue, Needles, CA 92363.