Based on its findings, the Commission draws these conclusions about the status of recreation at federal manmade lakes, and about the difficulties of providing water-related recreation to the public.
1. Federal lake recreation is a significant national resource and public benefit of federal water projects, and it makes important contributions to local, state, and national economies.
2. Recreation at federal lakes has not been treated as a priority, or often even an equal, with other reservoir uses, despite its stature as an authorized purpose. This is manifested in often inflexible water management for recreational purposes, in lack of public communication about changes in water levels for other purposes, and in failure to provide and maintain the facilities and services needed to meet public demand for recreation at federal lakes.
3. Recreation management at federal lakes has suffered from lack of unifying policy direction and leadership, as well as insufficient interagency and intergovernmental planning and coordination.
4. Recreation facilities at most federal lakes are inadequately maintained and insufficient for current levels of public use. Funds are not available to correct an $800 million maintenance backlog, nor to construct and operate new facilities. 5. Federal recreation user fee practices are not particularly successful as a revenue generator. The Fee Demonstration Program appears to provide a model for greater success in producing fee revenue.
6. Meeting current and future demands for lake-related recreation, with or without increased appropriations, will require smart, flexible, visionary management and better ways of doing things.
7. The value of providing recreation services through local partners underscores the need to expand and improve development and operating partnerships with state and local governments and with private businesses.
8. Inconsistent concessionaire policies across lake management agencies do a disservice to the public, which benefits when concessionaires have the conditions to succeed.
9. Agency policies against cost sharing with state and local government partners are unwise. Cost sharing in the operation and maintenance of facilities operated by local jurisdictions would be cheaper for the federal government in the long run and in the best interest of the public.
10. There is ample justification and precedent to integrate reservoir water management, particularly drawdowns and flow levels, to serve recreation and environmental purposes. This can be done while still achieving the intent of Congressional authorizations.
11. Clean water is critical to lake recreation as well as lake health. The Commission endorses the total watershed approach to clean water and the Environmental Protection Agency's expressed commitment to give increased emphasis to clean lakes under the Clean Water Act.
12. The concept of a national recreation lake system has merit, but such a system should not be created before it can be tested through a smaller scale demonstration program.
Commission recommendations are presented in a framework of five overarching themes: Make recreation a higher priority at federal lakes. Energize and focus federal lake recreation leadership. Advance federal lake recreation through demonstration and reinvention. Create an environment for success in federal lake recreation management. Identify and close the gap between recreation needs and services.
National Recreation Lakes Study Commission, "Reservoirs of Opportunity. Report of the National Recreation Lakes Study Commission" (1999). Federal Documents. 30.