Congressman Gosar warns fight over Refuge boating restrictions is not over

By Brandon Messick, Today’s News-Herald.

Congressman Paul Gosar didn’t come to Lake Havasu City on Wednesday to gloat.

Following what he sees as a victory over the federal government’s proposed restrictions on the waterways surrounding Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, Gosar joined city leaders Wednesday morning at Makai Café to keep up on local issues.

His appearance Wednesday morning was in preparation for a town hall meeting that night at the Aquatic Center, where Gosar discussed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to impose restrictions on the waterways at Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.

Efforts by Gosar and Lake Havasu City officials, as well as the public, led to the suspension of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to limit recreational boating activities at the Refuge earlier this month. Fish and Wildlife suspended its plan in order to seek further discussion on the issue, which opponents say could threaten the economy of Havasu and other cities along the Colorado River.

The proposal followed an expansion earlier this year of the Refuge’s no-wake zone, by half a mile. That expanded no-wake zone will stand at the Refuge, Fish and Wildlife Service officials have said.

“Gosar is an asset and a friend to Lake Havasu City,” said Havasu Mayor Mark Nexsen. “Every time he’s here, he reaches out to our citizens. This man led the charge (against Fish and Wildlife), and their proposed restrictions are a thing of the past.”

On Wednesday night, Nexsen recounted a conversation that took place more than a year ago, between himself and agents of Fish and Wildlife.

“They asked me to use my ‘bully pulpit’ to advocate for a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit on the lake,” Nexsen said. “I told them that if I did that, I wouldn’t have a ‘bully pulpit’ for long. We’ve been using the Refuge for decades, and we’ve peacefully coexisted. What has changed? Nothing.”

Gosar told a crowd on Wednesday night that the fight was not yet over. “The buoys at the Refuge have to go away, and we have to perform our due diligence.”

The fight would continue until the expanded no-wake zone in the Refuge was eliminated, Gosar said. He also said that he wants to see the resignation, or transfer, of Refuge Director Linda Miller.

“She has a clear conflict of interest in this matter,” Gosar said. “Now there are photographers and drones at the Refuge. I suggest that residents make phone calls, write letters and take documentation of their photographers.”

Gosar stated that he would work with politicians in Washington and Arizona to cut Fish and Wildlife’s purse strings, as well. “We’ll use the power of the purse – if they don’t have the money, they can’t do this,” he said.

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, who was also at the meeting, said that Fish and Wildlife’s efforts to close the Refuge to motorized watercraft is nothing new. “Since I’ve been in office, Fish and Wildlife has been trying to close down the lake,” he said. “They care more about the fish in the lake than they do about the livelihood of the people. It’s been going on throughout my 20 years on the county board of supervisors.”

Nexsen agreed with Johnson’s opposition to Fish and Wildlife’s efforts. “I enjoy wildlife,” Nexsen said, “But I enjoy human life, and we have to take care of it.”

The fight is not yet finished, Gosar said. Gosar and city officials are certain the Fish and Wildlife proposal will return.

“Three million people visit Lake Havasu City each year,” Gosar said. “If the lake is closed off, you can’t replace that.”

Full story HERE

Mike Foster