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Input needed on ways to maintain Lake Mead launch ramps

Down, down, down and down some more. While a bit repetitive, that phrase is about the only way to describe where the water level in Lake Mead is heading and has been for more than two decades. Unless something drastic happens on the Western weather front, it looks like the water level is going to continue its downward trend.

Current projections, according to the National Park Service, which manages the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, are that the water level will drop from its current level of about 1,042 feet to about 1,014 in late 2024.

Unfortunately, there is no magic valve that can be opened to increase the amount of water coming down the Colorado River and thus increase Lake Mead’s water level. Not to mention that of Lake Powell, its upstream neighbor. Only time and lots of precipitation in the high country, coupled with personal and community conservation efforts, can ultimately turn things around.

Given that painful reality, recreational boaters can expect Lake Mead access in 2023 to replicate that experienced in 2022. That was a year in which the closings of launch ramps at Echo Bay and Callville Bay left Hemenway Harbor as the lone operating launch ramp on what should be one of America’s largest recreational waterways. A year characterized by long lines, lengthy wait times and short tempers.

To address this situation, the NPS is seeking input from the public as it explores management options for maintaining launch ramp access for motorized recreational boaters along with other visitor services as low water conditions persist. Those management options will be part of what the agency is calling the Sustainable Low Water Access Plan.

The purpose of the plan “is to develop a strategic direction for the future of motorized boat launching and related commercial services at five key access locations, along with facility and infrastructure needs and related implementation actions at these locations.” said Acting Superintendent Stan Austin.

Those five key locations are Hemenway Harbor and Callville Bay Marina in the Boulder Basin and Echo Bay, Temple Bar Marina and South Cove in the upper basins.

The NPS will present an overview of management options at three in-person and one virtual public meetings. For those living in the Las Vegas area, a meeting is slated from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday at 500 Date Street, Building 100, in Boulder City.

Meetings also are scheduled in Arizona for Tuesday in Meadview and Dec. 8 in Kingman. The virtual option is scheduled for December 14 from 4 to 6 p.m.

You can also provide input online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/LAKE-Low-Water-Access. There you will find five questions and boxes in which to provide your answer.

Question 1, for instance, asks you to describe what experiences within the Lake Mead NRA are most important to you, especially given current water levels. But it also asks you to consider the kind of experiences you feel future visitors should have.

You also will find a copy of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Sustainable Low Water Access Plan newsletter, which provides an overview of past and current planning processes along with desired outcomes.

The newsletter also provides more details on the public meetings, including the link for the virtual meeting.

We live in a world where complaining is what we do best. This is the chance to provide your input up front, to make an investment of your time and thoughts in the planning process and be part of the solution to a most challenging situation.

It may not make a difference in the short run, but over the long haul your contribution could be a game changer.

The deadline for public comment is Dec. 23.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com

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