Crystal Lake Management Plan Comments

Matanuska-Susitna Borough
Planning Commission
350 E. Dahlia Avenue
Palmer, AK 99645

Ref: Crystal Lake management plan

Dear Planning Commission;


The Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition’s (AQRC) applauds the Mat-Su Borough for having a mechanism in place to create lake management plans that protect water quality, nesting birds and a peaceful setting for area residents.  In the present process to update the Crystal Lake Management Plan the AQRC supports:

OPTION 1: Restrict the use of PWC on Crystal Lake.
• Bans PWC.
• Quiet hours of 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily remain in place.

Recreational jet ski (PWC) activity on Crystal Lake is having detrimental effects on the quality of life for those living there. Jet skis are loud and the constant change in pitch, due to changes in acceleration, is highly disruptive and annoying. Jet ski wakes and noise as well as their sheer presence are highly destructive to wildlife habitat and nesting birds.  It seems ironic that the property rights  of the majority of property owners, such as peace and quiet in and around one’s home, are being trumped by the conduct of a relatively few people recreating on jet skis. AQRC believes that the type of activities allowed on lakes should be regulated to protect birds such as loons and grebes and the people that reside around the lake. The ability to regulate conduct is the very purpose of the lake management plan program. We urge you to recommend a  Crystal Lake management plan that will restore the lake to the peaceful attributes that attracted many of the land owners to purchase property there – a lake free of jet skis.

The AQRC is dedicated to protecting the rights of Alaskans to quiet places for the benefit of public land users, home and cabin owners, communities, businesses, wildlife, visitors, and future generations. Alaska’s natural beauty, wildness, wildlife, expanses of undisturbed open space, and peace and quiet are among its most cherished values, and Alaskans, our visitors, and future generations have the right to experience the natural sights, sounds and quiet beauty of our state.  In the vast majority of cases, the obtrusive noise, exhaust, and dangers of motorized recreation are incompatible with those special natural experiences and with quiet homes and neighborhoods.

Unfortunately natural quiet and the opportunity to hear and enjoy natural sounds are increasingly hard to find in the MSB.  Although there are many places in Alaska that look the same as they did 100 or more years ago, very few sound as they did only 10 or 20 years earlier. Motorized recreation has grown with the population and advancement in technology. Consequently, not only do we need to protect those quiet areas that still remain, but we need to restore many previously quiet lands to their former, more natural, more pristine condition.  Most of us, until quite recently, took the restorative quiet of the outdoors or our neighborhoods for granted.  We assumed that the backcountry or rural location we chose to live would always provide a quiet refuge from the noise, busyness and artificiality of our towns and cities.  That assumption, to our great chagrin, has proven to be false. We now know that natural quiet and natural sounds require our—the public, and the public’s stewards, the land managers—constant vigilance if they’re to survive even into the middle of our present century.

Natural quiet and natural sounds should be recognized by public land managers and planners as critical resources in and of themselves that deserve no less consideration than clean air and water or fish and wildlife and their habitat.  Soundscape plans should be prepared.  Any governmental analysis of proposed agency actions should include a determination of the possible effects on natural quiet and natural sounds and on the humans and wildlife that enjoy or depend on them.  Lake management plans that address these issues should be encouraged and adopted for all lakes in the MSB. Please prohibit the use of PWC’s on Crystal Lake.

The following is information from which includes the following:

Water Pollution

In that same proceeding, the opening statement of the NPS acknowledged that, “Studies have shown that these two-stroke (PWC) engines discharge as much as 25 percent of their gas and oil emissions directly into the water.”

A “fact sheet” issued by the NCPA’s Conservation Policy Dept., under date of 4 December 1997, observed that:

Pollution is another major concern associated with PWCs. The overwhelming majority of PWCs are powered by two stroke engines which are infamous for their propensity to pollute both air and water. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that between 40% and 50% of the fuel/oil mixture used by two stroke engines is emitted directly into the water and air. Polycyclic Aeromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), which result from the discharged fuel, are toxic to various forms of zooplankton, an important link in the aquatic food chain.

Data developed by the California Air Resources Board indicates that an average two-hour ride on a PWC may dump 3 gallons of gas and oil into the water.

Noise Pollution

Noise has been aptly defined as unwanted sound. It has been said that, “Noise is an affliction suffered by people who have no part in creating it.” And, further, that noise is a problem, “Because it is driving people crazy.” The World Health Organization in 1996 declared noise to be serious health threat. Among its consequences are stress, high blood pressure, sleeplessness and lowered work productivity.

PWCs produce a high pitch mosquito-like whine in some maneuvers, and a variable, undulating level of noise in others, all of which many people subjected to it find to be a source of great irritation and annoyance. The effect on wildlife can be even more devastating. Contributing to the problem is speed, on the one hand, and, on the other, the practice of “wave-jumping” or “wake-jumping,” which enables a PWC to be completely out of the water in one instant, and into it in the next, thus producing entirely different sound levels and sound characteristics. The end result is far more discomfort to the human ear than a steady level of sound. Even the PWC industry acknowledges that the noise patterns emitted by the PWC are both unique and annoying.

The consequential noise pollution is often exacerbated by the practice of PWC operators traveling in groups of 2 or more, a common phenomenon. Moreover, unlike traditional watercraft which (except perhaps, in the case of water-skiing) tend to be operated in a travelling mode from point A to point B, the PWC most often is seen (and heard!) coursing back and forth seemingly endlessly in the same general area, or even operated round-and-round within a very confined area.

The impact upon waterfront residential areas can be devastating. The PWC does not coexist with domestic tranquillity. The two are totally incompatible. Many a home owner sunning on a pier, trying to read or converse on an exterior deck, or engaged in more mundane yard chores has been driven indoors by the whine and undulating sound levels imposed upon his aural senses by one or more PWCs running around in the vicinity.

Adverse Impact On Wildlife

Addressing the issue of impact on wildlife by PWC operations, the aforementioned article published by the Surfriders Foundation further reported that:

Not only does the noise of PWCs bother others and potentially harm the rider, it can also prove detrimental to nearby wildlife. A controlled study of PWC on the San Juan Islands (Washington State) by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute described how PWC, which lack low frequency long distance sounds, do not warn surfacing birds or mammals of approaching danger until they are almost on top of them causing undo panic and disturbance. The high frequency sounds PWC produce in air and water also startle birds. Scientists in New Jersey observed PWC disrupting nesting Osprey and terns, who fly away from their nests and leave their eggs vulnerable to predators.


Brian Okonek, President

Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition