CRMP History

With the imminent 1997 revision of the Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP), a review of earlier plans provides an invaluable historical perspective.  The first CRMP was completed in 1979 and took effect in January 1980.  It evolved from recognition of increased use of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and impacted resources.  Some of its pages are referenced below.
"In 1973, twenty-one commercial boating companies and non-commercial river runners carried more than 15 thousand people down the river, an increase of almost 700 percent in six years. Colorado River use for 1972 alone exceeded the 100-year period from 1870 through 1969." (p.2).  As a result of the increased use and impacted resources, user days were established in 1973; levels were 89,000 for the commercial allotment, 21,000 for commercial crews, 7,600 for non-commercial, and 1,000 user days for management and research.  As part of the river plan, Management Objectives were developed based on master plan objectives, public input, and research findings. (p.11).
Among the fourteen objectives were the following:
* allocate use equitably between commercial and noncommercial users
* establish an equitable and efficient method of assigning noncommercial permits
* reduce high visitor density and congestion at points of interest
* phase out the use of motorized watercraft between Lees Ferry and Separation Canyon

Provisions of the plan, among others, (p.12) included:
* an opportunity for visitors to select noncommercial or commercial river trips
* a reasonable allocation of use for commercial and noncommercial trips
* continued commercial operator profitability by increased user day allocations and offering partial river trips and spring and fall trips
* increased noncommercial trips to accommodate increased demand"

"User days are not the key limiting factor in this plan as they have been in the past.  Rather, the number of daily launches from Lees Ferry and trip size are the key factors in limits and distribution of use". (p.16).  The allocation between the commercial and noncommercial users was "based on the best available information on the demand for commercial and noncommercial trips". (p.21).  A number of factors were noted as complicating figures for demand of noncommercial trips.

In keeping with the plan's objectives of increasing noncommercial user days, Table 7 (p.22) provided comparisons.  Noncommercial projected user days would increase 718% compared to 130% for commercials.  Trip numbers would increase 600% for noncommercials but would decrease 3% for commercials.  Noncommercial participants would increase 843% while commercial trip participants would decrease 10,5%.

The 1979 Plan also indicated that the National Park Service (NPS)reserved the right to "adjust or reallocate use allocation". (p.24).  It was also recognized that the demands would change and that adjustments would be necessary.  It further stated that use allocation would be modified on a three to five year basis after consideration of public review and comment.  By December of 1981, a new CRMP with Annual Operating Requirements was in place and substantially different from the 1979 Plan.  The new plan was designed to guide management for a period of five to ten years.

Congress became involved with the CRMP in 1980.  The Hatch Amendment was a component of the 1981 Appropriations Bill for the Department of the Interior.

"The Amendment prohibited a reduction of user days or passenger launches for commercial motorized craft below 1978 levels during the summer season". (p.4).

The response by the NPS was to significantly modify the 1979 CRMP to provide commercials with a total of 115,500 user days, 106,156 in the summer season (May 1-Sept. 30) and 9,344 in the winter season (Oct. 1-Apr. 30). (p.7).

In addition, concern existed over the economic viability of small commercial operations.  As a result, the NPS encouraged "mergers" of those companies which hold contracts where viability was questionable.  This is in stark contrast to the 1979 plan which stated that if a company ceased operations, its use allocation would "be reallocated at the discretion of the National Park Service". (1979, p.24), thereby providing the possibility of increased noncommercial use.

The shift in NPS emphasis to economic viability of commercials was evidenced by their commitment to ongoing analysis (of economic viability) and resulting use allocation.  "Any adjustment in use levels among concessioner would be made in full(cont. page five) cooperation with all companies considering historical use and other factors". (p.17).  One paragraph consisting of two sentences summarized the commercial vs. noncommercial use ratio.  "Studies will be done to assess public interest in commercially guided trips compared to noncommercial trips.  The allocation of user days between these two segments of the river running public will continue to be an important management concern". (p.16).

Other changes impacted the noncommercial user.  If one joined an earlier trip,his/her name would be removed from the waiting list.  (Currently, one may participate in one earlier trip prior to his/her own).

The most recent CRMP was completed in 1989 and stated that its purpose was to "supplement existing management guidelines and directives."  Similar to the 1981 plan, the 1989 plan was also to be in effect for a five to ten year period.  And once again, the NPS reserved the right to allocate or reallocate user days.

User days were to be determined based on criteria including; scientific research, public input, historic considerations, and interpretation of legislative mandates. (p.3).  Although an annual review process was included, its nature was to address the Noncommercial and Commercial Operating Requirements. Emphasis was placed on public meetings, concerns, and involvement.  Concerns over impacted resources and crowding and congestion were again emphasized.

Thirteen Management objectives were cited including a call for social science research to "develop visitor profiles and user expectations for the Colorado River whitewater experience". (p.10).  However, the management objectives excluded any parity in user days between commercials and noncommercials.

The 1989 Plan also provided for "Administrative Charges for Noncommercial Users".  This resulted in the $25 application fee and $50 permit fee, both non refundable and non-transferable.  Appendix G is titled, "Environmental Assessment".  It includes a statement on Administrative Charges for Noncommercial Users.  "Socioeconomic impacts: monetary impacts upon some individuals may result in unwillingness to apply for and obtain a permit.  This provision will also result in a decrease in numbers on the waiting list because the frequency of multiple applications by an individual or family will decrease."

Currently there are 6,752 individuals on the waiting list for a noncommercial permit.  There were 252 launches in 1995.  Even with a 40% cancellation rate, the wait for a permit is easily in excess of 10 years and more likely 16 years.  Meanwhile, the wait to join a commercial trip may be 1-2 years at the maximum.  Increased demand by noncommercial interests has yet to be recognized by NPS in the allocation of user days.

The GCPBA was formed with the mission of "representing the interests of the private boating community".  It represents many voices which have not organized until now. The organization looks forward to exploring options and solutions to the concerns of all involved with the management of the Colorado River.

Researched by Janet Collins, GCPBA board member, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA.

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