FYI - GC River Closure Letter - Mountain Buzz

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Old 10-02-2013   #1
Join Date: Feb 2005
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FYI - GC River Closure Letter

Sally Jewell, Secretary
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Via Email October 2, 2013

Dear Secretary Jewell,

I am writing in behalf of Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association, and the thousands of private river runners who travel through the Grand Canyon each year. My immediate concern relates to the current and future impact of Interior's "shutdown" policy on boaters with imminent launch dates for Colorado River trips.

At present, and in each subsequent day of this shutdown, numerous private and commercial boaters are being denied access to river trip launch facilities at Lees Ferry, Arizona. This is an area managed by the National Park Service. Our representatives on site have been told that the policy requiring this closure was issued at a high level in Washington. Therefore we are calling on you to reverse this policy and allow trip rigging to resume today, and to permit long-scheduled launches of both private and commercial trips.

The reasons for doing so are simple – there is no actual resource saving involved, huge individual time and financial commitments by citizens are being squandered, and other Interior components are allowing launches on managed rivers despite the shutdown.

With regard to resource issues, the very NPS rangers who would be overseeing launch activity are being used to barricade the road to the river access point at Lees Ferry. Allowing launches would not require any manpower diversion or otherwise incur additional costs to the government. Likewise, Park-wide search and rescue personnel remain on duty to respond to emergencies that might arise involving river parties already on the river. Resumption of launch activity would not require further manpower in that segment of the Park's workforce

The decision to prevent launches means that numerous individuals – who already have been issued a launch permit by the Park and who have invested large amounts of non-refundable money in a river trip (including those committed to a commercially operated trip) – are being subject to an unreasonable and logically indefensible government interruption in that trip. In some ways, this could be viewed as an unjustified seizure of their assets, since for many individuals rescheduling will not be an option. I should add that the related decision to prevent hike-in participants from joining trips at Phantom Ranch not only presents similar issues, but also creates potential trip safety issues. Participants intending to join a trip in this way may be critical replacement boat operators – substituting for others who were permitted to hike out midway through the trip.

Finally, we are reliably informed that other Interior-managed rivers not under NPS jurisdiction continue to allow launches of river trips, albeit without direct ranger participation in those launches. This is a logical and considerate method of implementing any applicable shutdown-related workforce restrictions, and we urge that process be immediately implemented at Grand Canyon as well.

Given there are less burdensome means available for Interior to comply with the terms of the current budget crisis, current policy should altered to allow launches and hike-ins for Grand Canyon river trips.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this matter.


Richard Phillips, Secretary
Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association

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Old 10-02-2013   #2
Pleasant Valley, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
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A well written letter to the former CEO of REI. Not a bad angle . Thanks for all of your efforts on behalf of those have spent time, money and sacrifice to make their trip happen.
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Old 10-02-2013   #3
Cottonwood, Arizona
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Good letter Rich.
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Old 10-02-2013   #4
Denver, Colorado
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Good letter. Completely agree on all points. If you got a grand permit, they should let you go. Got a link or email for others to send it letters? Will probably be more impactful to have more voices heard.
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Old 10-02-2013   #5
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
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Great letter....catalyst for me to write one to them as well.

As a side note.....loss of access to rafting, both commercially and private trips, was mentioned on Dianne Rehm this morning. Not the Grand Canyon specifically but its likely the story they were thinking of.

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Old 10-02-2013   #6
fort collins, Colorado
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I hope that does some good. These people must be entitled to sue the federal government if this continues, right?
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Old 10-02-2013   #7
SLC, Utah
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: May 2011
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I am outraged that our congressional "leadership" got us to this point and I would be beyond livid if I had a GC launch right now. But I totally disagree with the letter. We are all in this floundering boat together and it seems pretty selfish to single out river access to complain about. Is a government shut down ok as long as it doesn't inconvenience us? The whole point of taking a hostage is to cause as much pain to as many people as possible.

It is also important to understand that this is not Sally Jewell's decision - this and other denied services, each disastrous to someone, was given to us by our elected House of Representatives, not the NPS. They are just stuck in the bilge for an ugly ride.
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Old 10-02-2013   #8
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Hi Paulster,

The "shutdown" originated in Congress, and of course communications with our represtenatives is another course of action. But each Executive Branch agency has discretion in how to implement its shutdown restrictions. GCPBA's personnel on site at the entrance to Lees Ferry were told in no uncertain terms by NPS staff there that the decision to not allow access was made high in the Interior Department.

As another example of agency discretion, there is the travesty of the Centers for Disease Control shutting down its communicable disease tracking component (think virulent influenza reporting/tracking, Legionnaire's outbreaks, etc.) while continuing long-term research operations that have no immediate public health implications. [As reported last night on the CBS Evening News]

One of the keys to look at here is the differential between agencies within Interior. If across-the-board launch restrictions were required by the shutdown, then BLM would not be allowing them. Let's just hope pointing that out doesn't cause Interior to shut down the BLM to the extent they have NPS.


Rich Phillips
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Old 10-02-2013   #9
Riverton, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
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It's just an effort to make it as painful as possible. We launch on Westwater all the time when the ranger isn't there. Is there someone there keeping people from launching? If they can have someone there to do that then they can have someone there to allow the launches.

What the bigger issue comes down to is that the government is worried that we, the people, will realize we don't really need all their bull crap.

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Old 10-02-2013   #10
SLC, Utah
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I guess I stand corrected on who made the decision. I still think the point is that this is an incredibly painful process and to single out river runners for special treatment is not something I would expect or a choice I would make in an NPS leadership role.
I noticed that is shut down and am wondering what is going on with Forest Service permitting - I assume from FS friends that are out enjoying the colors today and the local padlocked picnic areas that all recreation-based FS work is shut down.
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