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LR Letter
November 30, 2000

Comments on proposed marina at Antelope Point

Ms. Kathryn Cook
Acting Superintendent, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
National Park Service
P.O. Box 1507
Page, AZ 86040-1507

Re: Request for EIS on Proposed Antelope Point Marina Project

Dear Acting Superintendent Collins:

Glen Canyon Action Network (GCAN) is an environmental advocacy group based in Moab, Utah, dedicated to protecting and restoring the integrity of the Colorado River watershed. We are joined in this letter by the following organizations: Din? CARE, Bluewater Network of Earth Island Institute, Colorado Plateau River Guides, Flagstaff Activist Network, Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association, Utah Environmental Congress, and Wild Wilderness. We write to you concerning the proposed development of the Antelope Point Marina at Lake Powell reservoir/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA).

We understand that a prospectus was published and mailed to prospective developers of the project on Friday, October 27, 2000, by the GCNRA Concessions Office. However, we are concerned that this project is moving forward without sufficient environmental review as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We believe that the National Park Service (NPS) did not comply with NEPA requirements in preparing its 1986 "Development Concept Plan and Environmental Assessment" (DCP/EA). Significant impacts existed at the time that should have been analyzed in a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), not in an EA.

Much has changed since 1986, and some additional significant impacts have come to light in the interim. We disagree with NPS's February 19, 1997, determination that the project does not require additional NEPA analysis. We believe the law requires that an EIS must be prepared before further steps are taken toward developing the project. We therefore respectfully request the following:

  1. that the prospectus be withdrawn pending resolution of these concerns;
  2. that you determine that the "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI) issued in 1986 and the letter written by NPS staff Mr. Ken McMullen on 2/19/97 to then-Superintendent Joseph Alston are not legally valid and do not reflect compliance with NEPA; and
  3. that you prepare an EIS before proceeding with any further work on the Antelope Point Marina project.

We also specifically request that you consider as an alternative in the EIS the option of reassigning the existing concessions contract at Wahweap Marina and the associated Rainbow Bridge tour concession to the Navajo Nation, in lieu of constructing new recreational infrastructure at Antelope Point.

Please provide us with a list of all planned and/or completed mitigation measures for this project, including especially any measures relevant to the archeological resource concerns discussed in Item 1 of the 1986 FONSI.

We respectfully request that you provide us with a response to this letter by December 11, 2000. If you disagree with our analysis and decline to grant our requests, we will request a review of the project by the Park Service Director in Washington, DC.

We are happy to discuss this matter with you in more detail if you wish. We have prepared an analysis of our concerns in this letter. We are confident that our conclusion constitutes an appropriate interpretation of the applicability of NEPA to the circumstances of this case, and we hope that you will agree. Please do not hesitate to contact GCAN should you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

BACKGROUND

The Antelope Point Marina project covers lands and waters managed by NPS and by the Navajo Nation. The project is currently moving forward with joint approval by NPS, the Navajo Nation, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. NPS has assumed the role of lead agency.

The DCP/EA and FONSI were published in 1986. More than a decade passed before the agencies involved showed serious interest in pursuing the project. In 1997 a decision was made to reactivate the long-dormant proposal. On February 19 of that year, GCNRA environmental specialist Ken McMullen sent a three-page letter to the GCNRA Superintendent, recommending that the 1986 DCP/EA be accepted as "accurate and applicable" to the old plan under NEPA. Apparently there was concern within the agency about the adequacy of the 1986 DCP/EA. This letter sought to resolve those concerns by making the following points:

  1. The current proposed action is essentially the same as the old plan;
  2. a reasonable range of alternatives has already been analyzed;
  3. the same information and circumstances exist today as in 1986;
  4. the impacts discussed in the 1986 document are not significantly changed;
  5. public involvement and participation in 1986 were appropriately covered and are still relevant; and
  6. no additional consultation is required, except possible cultural resource consultation with the Navajo Nation.
Following issuance of this letter, several significant events occurred. In 1999, an access road, boat launch ramp, and parking lot were constructed at Antelope Point (identified as "Phase One" of the larger project). Meanwhile, NPS issued a solicitation for prospective developers to indicate their interest and qualifications for constructing and operating the project. Five developers were then selected to receive invitations to submit full proposals following issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) on October 27, 2000.

We disagree with the conclusions of the 1997 letter. We believe the same information and circumstances do not exist today as they did in 1986. The impacts have changed significantly since that time. Public involvement and participation were insufficient in 1986 and are not relevant to new information that has come to light in the interim. Therefore, additional consultation, study, and NEPA documentation are required.

The issues we will address include: Water Quality, Air Quality, Cultural Resources, Carrying Capacity, and Lack of Appropriate Consultation.

WATER QUALITY

Lake Powell stores Colorado River water behind Glen Canyon Dam, and that water eventually becomes a source of drinking water for millions of residents of California, Arizona, and Nevada. Water pollution in the Colorado River upstream is a source of great concern for municipalities. Millions of dollars are spent annually to remove pollutants and treat river water to comply with federal and state regulations. Thus, large development projects such as Antelope Point along Lake Powell's shoreline are a matter of potential concern for their potential to contaminate drinking water supplies.

The Antelope Point DCP/EA fails to evaluate the cumulative impacts of Antelope Point and other marinas on Lake Powell, in particular the potential for harm to water quality. Petroleum product spills and discharges from motorized watercraft, sewage overflows, runoff, human waste, and other sources of contaminants can have long-term negative effects that may defy standard emergency remediation measures.

Direct project impacts. The DCP/EA calls for boat slips to accommodate as many as to 300 boats (page 40). A boat launch ramp (which has since been constructed and was opened to the public in 1999) provides launching facilities for over 300 boats per day (page 89, Table 6, assuming all ramp traffic is outbound). Vessels utilizing the marina and launch ramp are mostly motorized and include houseboats, small boats, and personal watercraft (PWCs).

The DCP/EA (pp. 40-41) calls for constructing the following: a service station with six pumps and three tanks for fueling and repair; boat pump-out station; dock space for 60 small boat rentals, 60 houseboat rentals, and 2 tour boats; parking lots for a total of up to 800 cars; campgrounds with space for 150 RVs; sewage system sized to service up to 225 lodge rooms, a restaurant, health club, cultural center, rental offices, retail shopping facilities, and up to 100 units of commercial residential housing.

Strong potential exists for significant direct water quality impacts from the development, including stormwater runoff from parking lots and other locations, fuel spills, and sewage system malfunctions. The DCP/EA notes the following on page 85:

"The development proposal would result in the installation of sewage treatment facilities, fuel storage tanks, and storage tanks for waste oils and fuels in a new area very close to Lake Powell. Leaks, seepage, storm-induced washout of containment structures, or careless operating practices could all result in contamination of lake waters. In addition, porous sandstone substrates at the site make ground water vulnerable to contamination from the same sources. To mitigate such potential impacts, the sewage treatment facility and hazardous materials storage must be located and designed to isolate possible effluents from surface and ground waters. Methods used would include substrate sealing, drainage control, and provision of surface containment structures."

Sewage system. The sewage system is described on pp. 54-55 as a "sealed evapotranspiration bed sewage disposal system," essentially an elaborate version of a septic system, with more than a mile of collection line. The sewage system would be constructed, with appropriate linings, near the water intake facility for Navajo Generation Station. The DCP/EA states on page 55, "alternative sewage treatment methods should be evaluated..." and offers a list of potential technologies that are variations on the septic tank model. However, despite the somewhat detailed description of the preferred system, the document leaves open to question what specific system would actually be constructed. Thus it is impossible to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed sewage system since the document clearly leaves the door open for an alternative system to be chosen at some later date.

Advances in technology over the last 14 years may have made possible a wider range of options to construct and operate an effective and reliable sewage system. A new environmental review is necessary to evaluate options that may be preferable to those presented on page 55.

Water Supply. The DCP/EA notes on page 53 that the water supply for the project will be two wells "drilled into Lake Powell bank storage." Given the highly porous nature of the surrounding soils and rock, there seems to be high potential for contamination of this supply. The document states on page 85, "Should unforeseen contamination [of the groundwater source] occur, the condition would be corrected or a new supply developed." The document fails to state what alternative sources are available and feasible for developing if serious groundwater contamination were to occur and the wells had to be closed.

Runoff. The potential for significant contamination from parking lot runoff and from other overland sources is great.

The DCP/EA states on page 84:

"Areas of shallow soil at the site have little capacity to absorb runoff. This factor, in combination with the addition of impervious parking lots and other hard surfaces, could lead to excessive erosional soil loss and consequent sediments in the marina unless drainage from all surfaces is carefully planned during the design phase."

The document discusses runoff in the form of soil erosion, but fails to address strategies to reduce or eliminate chemical-laden stormwater runoff from parking lots entering Lake Powell. The DCP/EA provides no data to evaluate the dimension of the risk posed to Lake Powell water quality by runoff from as many as 800 parking spaces across the project area.

The DCP/EA does not discuss specific measures that might be undertaken to minimize or eliminate the chances of sewage spills contaminating Lake Powell in the event of a pipeline rupture.

Onshore human waste impacts. The DCP/EA mentions human waste on shoreline campsite areas as a matter of concern. We note that since the document was written, numerous episodes of fecal contamination have occurred, especially in the early 1990s following significant changes in the reservoir's water level. Personal communications between GCNRA personnel and GCAN indicate that NPS believes that a significant percentage of the contamination events were caused by the inundation of fecal matter deposited by campers along the shoreline during periods of low water.

In the past year NPS has adopted measures requiring boaters to carry approved human waste containers. Floating dump stations have been provided at scattered points along the reservoir to encourage boater compliance with the new regulations. However few data yet exist to indicate the extent of compliance- particularly in the case of small boats which typically do not have installed toilet facilities. Furthermore, the widely fluctuating lake levels that occurred in the early 1990s have not occurred in recent years. No data yet exist to indicate whether the new regulations have had their desired effect in minimizing the amount of onshore human waste contamination. Only time and fluctuating lake levels will tell if visitors are in substantial compliance with the new regulations.

The DCP/EA fails to adequately evaluate the impacts of possible additional human waste contamination on Lake Powell's water quality from boaters launching at Antelope Point.

Personal watercraft and two-cycle motor impacts on water quality. Nearly all commercially available PWCs and many small boats use two-cycle motors. These motors have greater acceleration than the four-cycle engines found on larger boats and automobiles. Two-cycle engines use a combination of gasoline and motor oil for fuel. Operation of these engines is inefficient, however; a significant amount of fuel mixture passes through the pistons unburned and passes out the exhaust.

Water quality impacts of PWCs are a serious problem and one acknowledged by NPS and other federal and state agencies. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that PWCs employing two-cycle motors routinely emit unburned fuel through their exhaust systems, in an amount equivalent to about 25% of the gasoline-and-oil mixture pumped into their tanks (documentation available from Bluewater Network). The PWC's exhaust system essentially injects an atomized spray of fuel into the jet of water that passes by the exhaust orifice. After passing through the jet, the contaminated water is thrown into the air, then falls back to the water's surface. Thus, for every four gallons of fuel consumed by a PWC, about a gallon ends up in the waterbody as exhaust. The total amount of unburned fuel dumped directly into Lake Powell by individual PWCs is staggering, yet goes virtually unnoticed by recreational users.

Earlier this year, NPS acknowledged the significant impacts of PWCs on park resources nationwide by issuing a new rule banning PWC use at many NPS units. GCNRA was granted an exemption from this immediate ban. NPS has acknowledged in personal communications with GCAN that a special PWC management plan for GCNRA will be prepared in the coming biennium to address growing resource protection and visitor safety impacts.

Regulators are beginning to take note. Recently the State of California initiated a ban on two-cycle PWCs at Lake Tahoe, out of concern for growing water quality problems traced directly to PWC contamination. Some local jurisdictions have banned PWCs from nearby waterbodies.

In September 2000, the US General Accounting Office issued a report titled, "Agencies Need to Assess the Impact of Personal Watercraft and Snowmobile Use," (GAO/RCED-00-243) documenting a widespread lack of information and monitoring by federal agencies, including NPS, of the impacts of this fast-growing sector of motorized recreation. Among the reports findings: (1) agencies have authority to assess the impacts of PWCs; (2) units report limited assessment of the impacts of PWCs; (3) agencies have not made collecting impact information a priority; and (4) existing information has identified adverse effects. The GAO recommends that federal agencies implement monitoring programs to generate information that can be used in developing appropriate management plans and minimizing the adverse impacts of PWCs.

The Department of Interior, in a letter to the GAO dated August 23, 2000, and signed by the Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks (Appendix IV), expresses general agreement with the GAO's recommendations (page 76). The letter also states that the NPS agrees with the report (page 77).

We find no mention in the Antelope Point DCP/EA of PWCs or of their impact. The marina is expected to attract large numbers of the craft. A new environmental review of the Antelope Point project must include a detailed analysis of PWCs' direct and cumulative water quality impacts. This analysis should evaluate anticipated increases in petroleum distillates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) dispersed into Lake Powell by PWCs launched from Antelope Point.

Pollution from PWCs may already be significant at Lake Powell, even without the Antelope Point development. Currently no data exist which accurately reflect the extent of the problem. At this time, NPS' water quality monitoring program tracks only fecal coliform (indicators of human waste contamination), not petroleum products or VOCs. Before proceeding with the Antelope Point project, an adequate monitoring program must be put in place, and sufficient data collected and evaluated to provide meaningful information about the extent of existing pollutant levels and the potential for increases associated with Antelope Point development.

AIR QUALITY

Voluminous evidence exists to show that two-cycle engines are significant contributors to air quality problems. Not only do they emit large quantities of unburned fuel but they also emit significant amounts of combusted pollutants. Lake Powell is in the immediate vicinity of several Class One Air Quality regions (e.g. the Grand Canyon and Canyonlands National Parks).

In the years following publication of the DCP/EA, significant public debate and legal actions occurred, relating primarily to the effect of nearby Navajo Generating Station (NGS) on haze and visibility. NGS is a coal-fired power plant that produces up to 2200 Megawatts of electricity and is within direct line of sight of much of the project area.

The DCP/EA on pages 80-81 acknowledges that air pollution from offsite sources is already a problem at the site, but states that the development of Antelope Point would not "significantly affect air quality":

"Visibility is affected on some days through the presence of regional haze and/or a locally generated plume. Preliminary monitoring data indicate that the regional haze may originate from metropolitan areas and smelters of southern Arizona, and metropolitan areas of southern California. It is carried into the region through atmospheric long-range transport and reduces visibility. The local plume that affects visibility results primarily from nitrogen-oxides emissions of the Navajo Generating Station... None of the development alternatives would significantly affect air quality...

"A local increase in gaseous emissions-carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides-is anticipated from the additional auto, truck, powerboat, and other internal combustion engine operations. Local air quality for gaseous pollutants including development of Antelope Point are well within the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR, Part 50) presented in Table 5, (and the increases would be insignificant).

"No emissions of ozone or sulfur dioxide would result from development."

The DCP/EA fails to provide any data that would indicate the specific estimated amount of air emissions anticipated directly or indirectly from development of Antelope Point. We therefore cannot determine the accuracy of the following unsupported claims that: (1) "local air quality for gaseous pollutants... are [sic] well within... [regulatory] standards... and the increases would be insignificant," and (2) "no emissions of ozone or sulfur dioxide would result from development." Thus, more information is needed.

CULTURAL RESOURCES

Archeological resources. The DCP/EA indicates that significant archeological resources exist within the project area, and that some unavoidable damage to these resources would be required in order to construct the project as currently proposed. There is no explanation whether efforts were made to identify possible sites for development that avoided archeological resource sites altogether.

The FONSI itself states the following (page 143):

"1. This finding is contingent upon a successful mitigation of unavoidable impacts to the two identified archeological sites within the project area regardless of whether or not the sites are determined to be eligible for inclusion on the national Register of Historic Places. All construction activities related to these sites will not be permitted to commence until these sites have been properly mitigated." ....

The FONSI states that no significant impact would exist only if the two sites were successfully mitigated. However, it is not clear that any progress on mitigation has been made. In his 1997 letter, Mr. McMullen states on page 2:

"There is a need to complete mitigation of two cultural sites prior to any construction of facilities (Item 1 of FONSI). I have not been able to locate a report or information that indicates mitigation has been completed for Antelope Point." ....

The DCP/EA contains some detail which indicates (pp. 24-25) the significance and extent of Antelope Point's archeological resources:

"During the survey of the proposed 710-acre project area, 11 sites containing archeological artifacts, and 2 Navajo ceremonial sites that are still in use were recorded. ...

"Taken as a whole, the Antelope Point archeological sites seem to 'offer a possibility of filling in gaps in the chronology of the Glen Canyon area. .......

From the discussion it appears that Antelope Point has considerable archeological significance and thus deserves more detailed analysis in assessing the impacts of development at the site.

The document also states on page 92 the following:

"Two recorded sites would be directly, significantly affected by all three development alternatives. ... This site extends around much of the point along the shoreline and is unavoidable. ....

"The second directly affected archeological site is located within the marina development zone... This affected site is probably one of the most significant recorded archeological sites on the point and is the only site believed to have potential for long-term occupation. ... [emphasis added] "

The DCP/EA does not make clear what mitigation might be considered sufficient to compensate for destroying such an important site. The document inadequately describes how NPS will assure compliance with Item 1 in the FONSI, i.e. successful mitigation of the two sites mentioned here.

Ceremonial sites. The traditional practices of medicine people are important elements of Navajo culture and heritage. The Dineh Medicine Men's Association, based in Window Rock, Arizona, has expressed its concern about proposed development activities on identified ceremonial sites as noted in the DCP/EA.

The document states on page 25 that a significant portion of the beaches in the project area are ceremonial sites:

"Another aspect of Antelope Point's cultural significance is its traditional and current continued use as a location for ceremonial rites. Accessibility, sandy beaches, and seclusion are the reasons Antelope Point is used for this purpose." .... However, some of the attributes that make this area attractive for ceremonial purposes (accessibility and beaches) also make it desirable for industrial recreational development. Construction of the marina and resulting increased visitor usage of the beach areas would render a significant amount of the ceremonial site unusable. The DCP/EA states the following (page 93):

"The development alternatives would preclude use of most of the Antelope Point beaches, which are within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, for traditional Navajo ceremonial rites. Much of the beach areas would actually be occupied by facilities, while most of the remainder would offer little or no opportunity for solitude once the development is in operation. However, at least one small, accessible embayment with a beach would remain, which could possibly be protected by fencing sufficient to offer solitude for ceremonial purposes. All three development alternatives are similar with respect to these impacts.

"The American Indian Religious Freedom Act requires consideration of impacts on traditional Navajo ceremonial sites. An alternative ceremonial site was identified and a plan developed to ensure seclusion from marina-related activities and intruders. These procedures were developed by the Navajo Nation and the National Park Service in consultation with LeChee Chapter and the Navajo Medicine Man Association...."

The DCP/EA does not explain whether attempts were made to locate alternative sites for the marina, but instead focuses on the proposed mitigation offered to the practitioners. It is not clear from the discussion whether the traditional practitioners with whom NPS consulted had agreed to the mitigation proposed (alternative ceremonial site) in the plan.

It is a matter of great concern to traditional practitioners when development projects intrude on these sites. In many instances, they believe that mitigation is simply not possible. Traditionalists have long been concerned about visitation to areas used for ceremonial purposes.

Lake Powell flooded hundreds of miles of canyons that contained extensive archeological resources and ceremonial sites. Little effort was made to mitigate that significant harm. Now the government proposes destroying more sites to promote increased recreational usage at Antelope Point.

[The Dineh Medicine Men's Association of today is based in Window Rock, Arizona. It is not the "Navajo Medicine Man Association" that is mentioned in the DCP/EA.]

NPS must reinitiate consultation with traditionalists in order to determine whether damage to ceremonial sites can be adequately mitigated.

CARRYING CAPACITY

The development of a major marina will provide additional launching capacity for significant numbers of motorized watercraft users on Lake Powell. The DCP/EA discusses the concept of carrying capacity for the reservoir, which it defines on page 87-88 in the following way:

""The model was used to estimate levels of use where boat numbers would become constrained by either the natural environment or safety. These estimated use ceilings are the 'carrying capacity' of Lake Powell.

"Factors found to be most significant to carrying capacity at present include: the number of shoreline campsites; the distribution of boats into the Escalante Canyon and Rainbow Bridge areas; the distance of destination zones from launch sites and services (gas); boat safety; beach invasion by tamarisk and consequent loss of campsite; beach fouling by human waste; archeological site damage; and the types of boats launched ...""

Outdated information. The discussion of carrying capacity in the DCP/EA is largely confined to justifying the new marina's launch capacity as within the parameters established under a 1982 carrying capacity study. Subsequent to the completion of the DCP/EA, NPS completed another carrying capacity study (1987). We assume the data collected and analyzed in the 1987 study were not incorporated into the 1986 DCP/EA. In any event, the 1987 study is nearly as outdated as the 1986 DCP/EA.

Safety. The project site is along the old Colorado River channel, now a relatively narrow, winding arm of Lake Powell. Design considerations for the marina must take into account the narrow configuration of the channel to minimize chance of boating accidents.

In its discussion of anticipated carrying capacity impacts, the DCP/EA focused on boat launch rates as a means of quantifying effects on crowding. The document states on page 91:

""The principal effect of the Antelope Point development on Lake Powell would be to raise the capacity for downlake boat launches up to, but not exceeding, the lake's estimated capacity to absorb such use under current management of the shoreline. Normally facility use at full capacity would only be expected during peak seasons. Nevertheless, these analyses indicate a need to consider additional management programs to alleviate boating impacts in concert with the phasing in of approved marina developments." "

The DCP/EA acknowledges the potential for crowding problems at peak use times (despite the assertion that the project is within the reservoir's carrying capacity) and indicates that at some future date these concerns will probably have to be addressed. Thus we question whether the current plan is adequate to handle crowding problems.

Earlier this year, the Associated Press published an article describing Lake Powell as the second-most dangerous recreation area in the nation (after Lake Mead) in terms of deaths and injuries. Alcohol-related accidents are common and present a growing challenge to law enforcement on the nation's second-largest reservoir.

The explosive growth in popularity of PWCs over the last decade has made the craft a significant issue in safety impacts at Lake Powell. GCNRA officials have confirmed in personal communications to GCAN that PWCs account for a significant number of visitor complaints and safety concerns. PWCs are sometimes known as "thrillcraft" for their agility, fast acceleration and ability to make quick turns. They are all too frequently operated in a reckless manner in close proximity to other boaters, swimmers, or fixed objects.

The DCP/EA cannot be considered adequate until these new safety impacts are thoroughly evaluated and addressed.

LACK OF APPROPRIATE CONSULTATION

We note that the DCP/EA (pp. 138-139) indicates that no comments from any environmental advocacy organization were received in response to the Draft EA. Comments and responses listed in the DCP/EA generally did not address environmental impacts of the project. Two public workshops were held, one at the dam's visitor center near Page and the other at the Le Chee Chapter House near Page. Except for a list of individuals and organizations to which the Draft EA was mailed, it is not clear that NPS made a serious effort to solicit public comment from outside the immediate community of Page and Le Chee. It cannot therefore be concluded that NPS fulfilled NEPA requirements for appropriate public participation and consultation in 1986.

CONCLUSION

Based on the analysis above, we conclude that the DCP/EA is inadequate, outdated, and violative of NEPA. NPS should have prepared an EIS in 1986. The EA was inadequate then, only more so today. The amount of time that has elapsed since the document was written only underscores the need for updating and expanding upon the information originally presented.

The 1997 McMullen letter was insufficient to meet NEPA requirements. Before NPS makes any additional commitments of staff time and resources in pursuit of a prospective developer for the project, we ask that the project instead be subjected to a rigorous review, and an EIS be prepared.

We also point out the need for expanding the current water quality monitoring program, particularly with respect to petrol

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