River Office Update: FEIS was released today.

The following is the National Park Service November, 2005, announcement of the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement to revise the Colorado River Management Plan:

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) to revise the Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP) was released today, 11/10/05.

Included in this document is the NPS preferred option to replace the current waitlist system for issuing noncommercial permits with a hybrid weighted lottery system.  The document also explains the NPS preferred option for transitioning from the current waitlist system to the new hybrid weighted lottery system.  For your convenience we are including key excerpts from each of those sections here.  The preferred alternative also would add many additional noncommercial launch opportunities each year:  56 additional trips in the May - August time period, 101 additional
trips in the shoulder season (March, April, September, and October), and 92 additional trips in the November - February time period.

Key FEIS text regarding the hybrid weighted lottery:

The hybrid weighted lottery option is a combination of several elements of the permit system options listed above and responds to the public's suggestions during public scoping. Once each year, a lottery would be used to award the following year's noncommercial launches.  Lottery applications would list the applicant and all potential alternate trip leaders ("potential leaders") and could include up to five launch dates throughout the year for initial consideration.  Each applicant's chance in that year's lottery would vary depending on the minimum number of years it would have been since any potential leader had won
through the lottery or participated in any part of a Lees Ferry
 to Diamond Creek river trip.

For example, based on the most recent time any potential leader had been on a commercial or noncommercial river trip, the application would receive the following number of chances in the lottery to obtain a river permit:

5 or more calendar years before launch date = 5 chances

4 calendar years before launch date = 4 chances

3 calendar years before launch date = 3 chances

2 calendar years before launch date = 2 chances

1 calendar year before launch date = 1 chance

Individuals could be listed as potential leaders on only 1 application per year and must be 18 years old by the requested launch date. Once a river permit had been awarded, deposits would be charged immediately and would become nonrefundable.  Deferments and/or swapping of permits would not be allowed.  Trips could be passed to any of the potential leaders listed on the lottery application, and trip leaders would continue to have the freedom to change their list of participants up to within three weeks of launch.

As any unclaimed or cancelled permits become available, they would be awarded through subsequent lottery drawings.  Thus, applications could include more than the five launch dates initially considered.  Applicants would be prompted to indicate on their applications the latest date they would be willing to accept a specific launch date should it become available due to cancellations.  For example, an applicant would be asked on their application if they would be willing to accept a river trip if it suddenly became available 10 days before the launch is scheduled.

Permits that continue to be unclaimed through the lottery 30 days before the launch would be posted on the internet and awarded on a first-apply, first-serve basis.

Key EIS text regarding transitioning from the waitlist system to the hybrid weighted lottery permit system:

Under this option, three stages of expedited transition would take place during the first four to six months after the Record of Decision (ROD) is signed.

Stage 1 would be first stage of transitioning from the current waitlist to the new permit system.  In this stage, members of the waitlist would be given one final two-month chance to schedule launch dates through the existing waitlist.  A total of 600 launch dates (from the 2007 through 2011 seasons) would be made available for this purpose.  All those people who do not succeed in this stage would then transition to stage 2.

Stage 2 would be the modified waitlist stage, in which existing waitlist rules would be changed to allow waitlist members to band together and advance up the list based on their combined waits.  For example, if Tom had been on the waitlist for five years and Robin for nine years, their combined wait would be 14 years, so they would receive one number and be ahead of all those who had waited 13 years or less.  After a two-month period, where members would be allowed to join together, 600 additional launch dates (from the 2007 through 2011 seasons) would be made available to those combined waitlist members with the greatest wait totals.  All those who had not succeeded in this stage would then move onto stage 3.

Stage 3 would be the final transition stage.  Everyone would need to give up their old waitlist spot and the existing waitlist would no longer exist.  In exchange for individual waitlist members giving up their spots, each waitlist member would have their choice of the following two basic options:

One option would consist of individuals on the waitlist trading their spot on the waitlist for one extra chance, in addition to the total chances they would normally have had, in the new hybrid lottery for each year they had been on the existing waitlist.  These extra chances would expire only upon being awarded a trip or through participation in any other trip (noncommercial or commercial).  These extra chances would greatly improve each person's chances in the lottery.

The other option would be for an individual to accept a refund for the price they paid to join and leave the waitlist.

This three-stage expedited transition process would transition all members off the waitlist within 6 months.  The Park expects the majority of stage 1 launch dates will go to people at the very top of the waitlist.  In addition, the Park assumes that an average of 3 people will join together to claim each stage 2 launch.  Together this would allow 33% (2,400 people) to have gained a launch date through this point in the transition.  The 10-year chances for the remaining 4,300 former waitlist members could be calculated as follows:  If all 4,300 apply each year and are part of an assumed 7,000 total lottery applications received each year, the Park predicts that over half of these people will have received a launch date within ten years.  The Park also predicts that in twenty years, no more than 561 of these people will continue to have been unsuccessful in obtaining a launch date.  Therefore, this three-stage expedited transition process, coupled with the new permit system, should result in a much improved success rate for the majority of those who are currently on the waitlist.

Because of these pending changes, the current Continuing Interest (CI) requirement has been waived for this winter, and the Initial Scheduling process has been postponed until February 1st, 2006:

  • CI forms are not due for the winter of 2005-2006.  Typically at this time of year all people on the Noncommercial River Permit Waitlist are required to express in writing their continuing interest in remaining on the waitlist for the following April 16 through April 15 time period.  Since the NPS preferred option in the EIS calls for a rapid transition away from the waitlist, we see no point in requiring CI forms this year.  However, if you've moved in the last year or changed your contact information, please fax or mail your updated information to the River Office.
  • Initial Scheduling is being postponed until February 1st, 2006.  Typically at this time of year the River Permits Office would initiate the annual initial scheduling opportunity and make available 250 or so launch dates from the 2007 noncommercial year.  Due to the release of the EIS and the desire to expedite the transition process, this year's initial scheduling opportunity is being postponed until February 1st, 2006.  Under the proposed transition option, a total of 600 launch dates from the 2007 through 2011 calendar years would be made available through the normal initial scheduling process for those on the waitlist.  This would be considered Stage 1 of the transition, the last chance for people to schedule launch dates through the waitlist as we all know it.  Transition Stage 2 as described above would commence once Stage 1 is completed (approximately 2 months later) and include an additional 600 launch dates.  Finally, we would hope to release the remaining launch dates for 2007 through the lottery as early as mid-summer, 2006.  All together this should result in close to 1500 launch opportunities being scheduled through the River Office over the next 10 months!

Other news:

  • Separate from the FEIS, the River Permits Office has received approval to replace our system of using Social Security Numbers to track users with one that uses names, addresses, and birthdates.
  • Because noncommercial and commercial launch dates for 2006 were previously scheduled, 2006 will be considered a transition year.  This means that we will not implement the new launch schedule until 2007.  However, we will be reviewing the existing 2006 launch patterns closely and determining whether we can add any additional noncommercial launch opportunities within 2006 (for Carrying Capacity Standards see EIS Chapter 2, page 32).
  • Currently scheduled trips will no longer have the option to postpone their launches to 3 years into the future.  This is essential for ensuring the new launch schedule can be followed.  Trip leaders, however, will have a new option:  they will be able to list additional potential alternate trip leaders.  The EIS allows anyone who has not been on the river the same year to be qualified to go on a trip.  Those with scheduled trips will therefore be given the opportunity to list additional people as potential alternate trip leaders.  This will provide an opportunity for these trips to continue as planned with or without the original trip leader.
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