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September 10, 2010

Need Your Input to the National Park Service by September 30th to Maintain Seaplane Access at Ross Lake

The National Park Service is creating a management plan for Ross Lake National Recreation Area in Washington State which would affect a wide variety of activities and, as proposed, would essentially eliminate seaplane operations on Ross lake.  Washington Seaplane Pilots’ Association (WA-SPA) is leading the effort along with the Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA), Washington Pilots Association and AOPA to ensure that seaplanes will still have full access to the lake and are calling on individual pilots to register their feedback.

The Seaplane Pilots Association’s position on the Ross Lake General Management Plan is for the Park Service to maintain their current seaplane regulations – they represent excellent management practice.   The very small numbers of water flying visitors to the lake, excellent seaplane safety record, and the absence of public complaints or concerns about seaplane operations demonstrates that the Park’s current management practices produce quality outcomes.

The process
of developing and implementing the General Management Plan involves several steps.  The process begins with public comment hearings, which were conducted throughout the month of July.  SPA’s representative at these meetings has been Steve Ratzlaff, who has done an excellent job of organizing strong local support of SPA members and Washington Seaplane Pilots Association members.   During these meetings the general public, including seaplane interests, have been encouraged to provide input into the proposed GMP.  We need help from everyone who supports seaplane access to our national waters.

Time is running short – Letters needed by Sept. 30, 2010.
Please provide input to the NPS and let them know that access should remain as it is today.

For suggested comments and more information, see [link to article below].

Web Site Detail: “Severe restrictions proposed for access to Ross Lake in Washington State – Deadline for feedback is September 30th, 2010.”

Ross Lake provides a unique experience for seaplane pilots as an extraordinary beautiful lake in a remote environment including campsites (with docks) all maintained by the National Park Service.  It is ideal for seaplane camping and we need to do everything we can to preserve our current access.

Ross Lake was created by the damming of the Skagit River and is in the recreation area of the North Cascades National Park.  Besides seaplanes, the lake may be accessed through the Ross Lake Resort which is situated in a line of twelve individual cabins and three bunkhouses built on log floats.  The Resort maintains boats with outboard motors for traversing the lake.   There are two ways to get to Ross Lake via land; either from the south by foot or ferry, or from the north via Canada and a 30 mile gravel road.  For those pilots on wheels, the nearest airports are Concrete(3W5) and Darrington (1S2).

Many concerned pilots recently attended a series of meetings in Washington hosted by the National Park Service for seaplane pilots and others to discuss the draft general management plan and environmental impact statement.  The park service has created four alternative plans for managing the area, and each would have a different impact on the level of seaplane access.  Their preferred option would limit the seaplanes to the north and south ends of the lake, and prevent access to nearly all acceptable seaplane campsites – the Park Service proposal would essentially eliminate seaplane access.

The pilots attending the meetings presented our case in a professional and polite manner.  They reminded the National Park Service that it had already determined that seaplane operations only numbered one or two dozen a year at the lake and there was no history of complaints about seaplanes.  Pilots in attendance explained that limiting operations to certain areas of the lake wouldn’t be feasible because the aircraft often need to land near the center of the lake for wind conditions, water depth, obstructions, and docking facilities.

The NPS officials appeared to understand that the current proposal was not feasible nor was it fair to seaplane pilots.  Furthermore they saw the significant level of support for maintaining access for floatplanes.

The next stage in the process is for those concerned to submit formal comments regarding the proposed plan to the NPS.  The deadline for submission is September 30th, 2010.
If you are a seaplane pilot now or hope to be in the future, and wish to maintain access to this wonderful location, please submit your comments to the National Park Service.

These should be provided electronically at the following location:

Suggested comments in your personalized letter:

•    I support leaving current access for seaplanes as it is today.  It has worked since inception and there is no data to suggest this might change.
•    Few, if any, noise complaints have been raised by visitors or anyone else.  It is unlikely this will increase as seaplane rated pilots are decreasing in number and Ross remains a relatively remote location.
•    The proposal does not provide adequate and secure/safe campsites to seaplane visitors.  Only north facing campsites provide sufficient protection from the southerly swell.
•    Any concerns about noise or excessive use could be readily addressed through the implementation of a standard noise abatement policy and guidelines for seaplane access.
•    Seaplane noise is limited to the extremely short time during takeoff (1 minute or so)
•    A permit system limiting seaplane access is unnecessary and is not supported.
Additional comments may include:
•    Seaplane use of the park has never been excessive and there is no data to suggest that will changes.  This was also a concern when the prior plan was developed in the 1980’s and excessive use has not since materialized.
•    Seaplanes make less noise then outboard engines in aggregate.  It has been estimated that there are probably less than a dozen seaplanes in a season.  Seaplanes only make sizable noise when taking off which only lasts 30 to 60 seconds.  The total time of noise (in excess of an outboard motor) is no greater than 10 to 12 minutes a year.
•    Seaplanes have historical significance to the northwest and should remain a part of Ross Lake.
•    If access is still provided to motorboats throughout the lake, then it is unfair and unjustified to limit seaplanes access.
•    There are only a limited number of campsites (north facing with a dock) which are well suited for float planes.
•    Seaplanes provide access to the elderly and handicapped, who cannot readily access Ross Lake.
•    The charter for National Recreation Areas states that access should be provided for All modes of Recreation.
•    It is unfair to eliminate access for seaplanes to the preferred campsites.
•    Seaplanes are a classic part of the history of the northwest.
•    Seaplanes are a mode of transportation, unlike jet-skis and ski boats.  They are generally used to access the lake and then leave.  Seaplanes are often used in the same sentence with jet-skis yet they are vastly different in use and noise output.
•    Seaplanes pollute less than any motor boats.  Engine exhaust does not enter the water.
•    Seaplane pilots must be licensed by the federal government and are required to complete recurrent training.  (They are legally bound to not consume alcohol and fly.)  The pilot community is also very effective at policing themselves.  This is one reason few problems occur with those in the seaplane community.
•    Limiting seaplane access to the proposed areas reduces safety by creating artificial barriers.
If you would like to get detailed information about the process and the proposals, download the latest Newsletter from:

Stephen Ratzlaff is SPA’s local representative for the Ross Lake access issue and WA-SPA board member.  For more information, please contact Stephen Ratzlaff at …

Stephen Ratzlaff

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