The Private Boaters Coalition was formed in June 2002 when Arkansas River boaters were informed that a private boater permitting system was being contemplated as a solution to a few instances of exceeding capacities in the Brown’s Canyon section of the Arkansas River. Capacities were set when the Arkansas River Management plan was developed back in 1998-2000 and implemented in Jan 2001. At that time the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA formed by Colorado State Parks) in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a Citizen’s Task Force (CTF) set capacity use guidelines for the Arkansas River corridor. Private and Commercial use capacities were determined for different sections of the river. The data to determine use capacities is the counting of boats (not people) and the Arkansas is the only river in the US that determines capacities in this manner. During the first year of the river management plan, private boaters exceeded use capacities in Brown’s Canyon section which triggered the development of a permitting plan for private boaters. During 2001, AHRA counted private boats and began to open dialogue between user groups to discuss the issue. Pikes Peak River Runners (private boater whitewater club) became involved after hearing about the issue in December 2001.
The issue: The Private Boaters Coalition (a diverse group of private boaters) is opposed to requiring private boaters to obtain permits to run the Arkansas River.
- Data: Since 1990, private boater use consistently remains 10% of the total use as compared to commercial outfitter use. Limiting use of this small segment will not impact the quality of the experience. The counting criteria should be based on an average of low/high water years. People should be counted, NOT boats for setting use capacities. People make the impact.
- Cost: Permitting systems are expensive. River managers agree that a permitting system should only be implemented if all other alternatives have been exhausted and failed. River managers also agree that permitting systems are always more expensive than forecasted. Private boaters tend to shift to other rivers and segments depending on flow conditions. Implementing a permitting system when only a few days per year might reach capacities is not an efficient approach for this issue. Especially when commercial capacities during this same period of high water are not close to reaching overall capacities.
- Safety: Brown’s Canyon is a relatively intermediate boating run. Pushing private boaters to more difficult sections during high water periods encourages an increase in risk-taking behavior.
Result: After much discussion between user groups an agreement was reached to increase private boater capacities in Brown’s Canyon in exchange for lowering commercial use. Additionally the difference was applied to incremental commercial use increases in The Numbers section.
The details of this capacity agreement are outlined in this AHRA River Management Plan summary. The detailed discussion about this compromise are described in the Private Boaters Coalition Yahoo Discussion group
and the official CTF Minutes on the AHRA website.