March 12, 2020 3 min read

(from the National Park Service Glen Canyon Gazette, March 2, 2020)

Lake Powell is considered one of the most scenic areas in the country for boating and many prefer to camp overnight. This requires safely anchoring to the shore, traditionally done by finding a sandy beach and tying four lines from the vessel to anchors buried in the sand (as depicted above). When departing, the sandy holes are refilled, which leaves no trace for future users.

Unfortunately, an anchoring method known as pin anchoring has become a common method used by boaters who wish to anchor on slickrock shorelines where traditional sand anchors are not effective. Pin anchoring typically involves drilling 4 to 8 holes into slickrock and placing metal stakes or rebar “pins” in the holes to which ropes from the vessel are attached. The National Park Service is directed by Congress to conserve the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wildlife unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations (54 USC 100101). Pin anchoring is illegal because it results in permanent, irreversible damage to the slickrock geologic and mineral resource and can weaken the integrity of the slickrock (these are violations of 36 CFR 2.1(a)(iv)), has adverse impacts to scenic/visual resources, and damages paleontological and cultural resources.

Widespread and frequent use of pin anchors is causing adverse impacts to park resources to the point that the National Park Service is also in danger of violating the “non-impairment” directive from Congress. In addition, pins and rebar that are not removed from the slickrock can cause injury to swimmers and can puncture vessel hulls. With the increasing number of boaters on Lake Powell, this is both a safety hazard and causes significant damage to park resources and must be addressed.

A proposed 3-year pilot study would seek to safely meet the needs of recreationalists while addressing resource damage and safety concerns. The proposed pilot study would have a threefold approach: 1) permit pin anchoring through limited, authorized, existing concession contract holders; 2) emphasize the utilization of non-damaging anchoring methods; and 3) education and enforcement. Repair measures for existing holes are also being considered.

Under component 1, pin anchoring would be authorized in designated areas and would only be allowed by an approved concession operation. Potential locations would be approved by the NPS, focusing on areas that have the fewest resource damage concerns. The general public would not be allowed to pin anchor but would continue to utilize traditional anchoring methods or alternative anchoring methods that do not cause damage to resources.

Under component 2, as less damaging anchorage technologies become available, they will be utilized preferentially over drilling and pin anchoring methods. Traditional sand anchors and other non-damaging methods of anchoring, such as water anchors called “Beach BagsTM,” would be utilized. The “Beach Bags” water anchors are a newer, patent pending anchoring system allowing large vessels to be easily and safely secured using high-tech ballasts filled with water. Hotwire Development, the Arizona-based inventor of Beach Bags, says they are intuitive and easy to use whether anchoring houseboats on the rocks or in the sand. To deploy simply flop (place empty Beach Bags on the shoreline), fill (connect the system’s hose and pump to inflate Bags with water) and chill (attach anchor lines and relax). If approved, Beach Bags would be a part of the solution to preserve and protect Lake Powell and avoid the $250 per pin fine for drilling into the lake’s sandstone shorelines.

Component 3 of the proposed pilot study would be education and enforcement efforts. Repair of holes showing weakened integrity of the surrounding rock and holes identified outside of the permitted pin anchoring area would be “repaired” to mitigate the adverse impacts to the landscape, visual/scenic resources, and integrity of the rock.

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