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September 23, 2010
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA is urging seaplane pilots to comment to the National Park Service (NPS) before Sept. 30 on a draft management plan that could curtail access to the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.
NPS is preparing a Draft General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, which is part of the North Cascades NPS Complex in Washington state. The plan’s goal is to develop a “management philosophy” to guide decisions over the next two decades on park preservation and land protection, educational programs, visitor access, use and facilities, and long-term operations and management of Ross Lake NRA.
AOPA has already filed comments, and may make a supplemental submission on the draft plan.
One issue under scrutiny is historical seaplane access to Ross Lake. The NPS has developed four alternatives. One makes no change to seaplane access. One bans it outright. Two--including the NPS staff’s recommended alternative--limit access to only the lake’s northern and southern ends. AOPA is working closely with a group of local plots and the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association to ensure that general aviation pilots have a seat at the table for these discussions, and that full seaplane access continues.
“AOPA opposes limiting access to the lake for seaplanes, citing the very limited frequency of operations, and subsequent minor impact on the lake environment,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy. “AOPA instead suggested that any concerns be addressed by advising pilots to adhere to the FAA Advisory Circular on overflights of noise-sensitive areas, and through a stakeholders’ process to develop any additional noise abatement procedures that may be necessary.”
In discussions with the NPS, local pilots pointed out that seaplanes are part of the history of Ross Lake. Ross Lake Resort founder Wayne Dameron was a float pilot, which led to his finding the location in the early 1950s. His aircraft provided vital access to the lake in the resort’s early days. It also seems that noise complaints from park users appear to be focused on vehicular traffic on State Highway 20, predominantly motorcycles, making proposed restrictions on seaplanes disproportionate, Pecoraro said.
Pilots can submit comments to the NPS prior to Sept 30. AOPA recommends that seaplane pilots explain how they use the lake, and that they provide advice on locations for the safest and best seaplane operations.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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