Grand plan for Grand Canyon

  Every year, more than 22,000 people run the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Amazingly, there is still a list of 8,000 private, non-commercial boaters who have waited up to 15 years to get on the ultimate whitewater run in the country.

That waiting list is among several reasons the National Park Service has released a draft management plan and environmental impact statement for the river. The plan will address protection of camping beaches, allocation of trips between commercial outfitters and private boaters, the preservation of wild and primitive conditions, and relations with the neighboring Hualapai Tribe.

The Park Service’s preferred management scheme, Alternative H, would cut down the waiting list by almost doubling the number of private boaters through the canyon, increasing overall user days from 171,000 to 218,000, and shortening trip lengths. The alternative would also shrink commercial group sizes and prohibit motorized trips during the winter. But the overall increase in river runners would concentrate pressure on camping beaches, and the Park Service would still allow outfitters to use motors and helicopters during the summer.

The National Park Service will accept public comments on the proposed management alternatives through Jan. 7, 2005. To read the draft plan or to send comments to the Park Service, visit www.nps.gov/grca/crmp.