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Boaters flock to meeting over plunging Lake Mead levels

Some recreation enthusiasts recognized farms and people downstream also need water, but lamented the possibility they wouldn't be able to boat around Lake Mead with their families.

LAS VEGAS (CN) — An overflow crowd of more than 400 people descended on the Bureau of Reclamation Conference and Training Center in Boulder City, Nevada, this week seeking answers to their questions regarding the dropping lake level at Lake Mead and the inability to launch their boats.

Four of five launch ramps at marinas that are part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area are closed due to the unprecedented rapid decline of lake levels. Calville Bay and Echo Bay are closed in Nevada as are Temple Bar and South Cove in Arizona. Hemenway Harbor in Nevada, just outside Boulder City and 35 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, is the only launch open, with a capacity to accommodate only 50 to 60 boats a day.

Most of the people attending the Wednesday meeting hosted by the National Park Service were full of angst.

“I’ve been coming here for 30-plus years. My kids grew up on this lake. Now my grandkids are coming,” said Scott Townley of Fullerton, California. “It would absolutely devastate my entire family and generations to come if we lose it. One of my grandkids wants to be a park ranger because of his experiences here at the lake.”

He continued, “It’s home to us. We like to come and be in a safe place, and Temple Bar is a safe place. We enjoy the heck out of boating on the lake. We enjoy the national park. We go to the petroglyphs. We do off-roading. We do all kinds of activities with our kids.”

Max Covis of Henderson, Nev., left, and Scott Townley of Fullerton, Calif., wait for a meeting to start Wednesday regarding low water levels and possible closures of launch ramps at Lake Mead. (Bob Leal/Courthouse News)

Wednesday’s meeting is part of the park service’s Sustainable Low Water Access Plan/Environmental Assessment to provide a plan for the nation’s largest manmade reservoir’s direction for the future of boat launching and commercial services, facilities and infrastructure.

“We’re doing exactly what we wanted to do, which is, kind of hear from the public, get their input on the different concepts, hear their ideas and answer clarifying questions,” said Justin Pattison, deputy superintendent of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. “Most importantly, encouraging them to go onto our website and make formal comments.”

When asked what kinds of questions he received during the two-hour meeting, Pattison replied, “People have varying concerns. (The questions) kind of depend on where they like to go to access the lake. Temple Bar, for example, people are concerned out there about the longevity of the marina as well as the folks who live at Trailer Village.”

Those questions mirrored those asked by boating enthusiasts who visit Echo Bay.

“They’re just generally concerned about how to access the lake, whether it be by boat or even a kayak,” Pattison said.

The park service floated three different management concepts for each of the marinas/launch ramps. They ranged from keeping the facilities rolling and extending launches (which is costly and depends on funding) to closing the launches and facilities at marinas.

 Attendees peppered Pattison with questions from all angles, from people wanting to know if their favorite place to recreate was going to be around in the coming months and years.

A married couple from Las Vegas who didn’t want to give their name because the husband had to call in sick because the meeting started at noon, said their whole lifestyle has changed.

“My family’s been using Lake Mead, (Lake) Mohave, since 1972. I grew my kids up here on the water,” said the husband. “This is Las Vegas, This is Sin City. If we can’t get our kids out of town and camp with them and drag them around behind a boat on a tube or waterskiing, how are they going to be raised? They’re not going to have the experiences that we had growing up.”

He said “quality time” and a “wholesome environment” were very important to the overall health of his family.

The couple agreed there are plenty of people who need the water downstream, such as farmers and the power generators, but said the government should be able to keep launches open with the fees all visitors are required to pay.

The park service will prepare a decision document in the spring/summer 2023 regarding its plans. Wednesday’s meeting was just a preliminary step.

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More than 400 people showed up at the Bureau of Reclamation Conference and Training Center in Boulder City, Nev. on Wednesday. They are concerned about the closures of boat launches at Lake Mead. (Bob Leal/Courthouse News)

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