Annual Spring Hearing and Public Input Opportunity: Wakesurfing

Wisconsin Conservation Congress

The Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will once again offer their annual opportunity for the public to provide input on a variety of natural resource-related questions with an in-person opportunity April 8, 2024, at 6 p.m. in each county or online starting at noon April 10 to noon on April 13, 2024.

A list of Spring Hearing Questions can be found here. Three of the hearing questions relate to wakesurf regulation. We strongly urge you to participate in this opportunity to vote on matters of significant impact to our lakes.

Environmental Committee
32. Would you support the WCC and legislature creating a new statute that prohibits the use of wake boat ballast systems on Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers?

Motorized Recreation Committee
42.  Would you support regulations by DNR to require that all ballast systems used in boats shall have a reasonable practical means of inspecting the system to confirm that no water is retained in the system (tanks, piping, valves, etc.)?

43. Would you support the WCC and legislature modifying existing statutes to prohibit generation of intentionally magnified wakes for wake surfing through the use of ballast, design features, operational procedures or any other means on lakes smaller than 1500 acres and less than 20 feet deep and maintain a distance from shore and other lake users of 700 feet?

Background on these and other questions can be found in the list of Spring Hearing Questions link given above.

ALL 72 COUNTIES WILL HOST A SPRING HEARING. VISIT HTTPS://DNR.WI.GOV/TINY/1521 FOR LOCATION DETAILS, OR SCAN THE QR CODE BELOW. Note that the input gathered at the in-person meetings will be combined with the online input when results are presented, so both options will be weighed equally. While everyone is welcome to attend the meetings and join the discussions if possible, it is strongly recommended that individuals provide input through the online tool if possible. This allows your feedback to be gathered efficiently and helps expedite compiling the results.


To vote online, go the website listed below and follow the voting instructions.

Wake Boats and Lakes

New Report from Wisconsin’s Green Fire

Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF) released a new report on the effects of wake boats on Wisconsin lakes. The increasing popularity of wake boats on inland lakes has prompted widespread and vocal criticism of the effects that these specially designed boats have on ecosystem health. Critics are demanding local and state regulations to curtail use of the wake boats.

WGF’s report “The Effects of Wake Boats on Lake Ecosystem Health: A Literature Review,” compiles findings from over 175 scientific studies in several U.S. states, documenting several kinds of negative effects from wake boats on lakes. Wake boats can spread aquatic invasive species, increase shoreline erosion, damage aquatic plants including manoomin (wild rice), worsen water quality due to re-suspension of sediments, and negatively impact birds and fish, particularly nesting loons and spawning fish. 

Author of the report, David A. Ortiz, a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin—Madison says, “This project bridges scientific research and best practices on how wake boat use can be part of a long-term sustainability plan for Wisconsin lakes.” 

This WGF report provides the Wisconsin Legislature and local units of government with several pro-conservation recommendations that support recreational uses of lakes while protecting the health of lake ecosystems. 

Among those recommendations: 

  • Wake boating should only be done on lakes with at least 40 contiguous acres of open water where the entire contiguous area is greater than 20 feet deep and more than 600 feet from any shoreline. This does not mean 40-acre lakes—rather, it means limiting wake boat use to larger and deeper lakes where the impacts on shorelines, aquatic habitats, and wildlife, can be minimized. 
  • To reduce the spread of invasive species which can easily survive in leftover ballast and bilge water on wake boats, wake boat owners should hot pressure wash the boat or treat with bleach and let dry for at least 4 days before using their boats on different water bodies. 
  • Wisconsin’s Green Fire also recommends online training on proper use and risks of wake boats, along with informational signs at waterways. 

Wisconsin is not alone in dealing with controversy over wake boats. In January 2024, Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources approved a rule that prohibits wake boat use on lakes less than 50 contiguous acres and those less than 20 feet deep. Wake boats in that state cannot operate less than 500 feet from any shore. The WGF report provides details on policies that states and communities around the U.S. and abroad have taken to protect lakes from negative impacts of wake boats.  

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This infographic above summarizes the report (download a PDF version of the infographic here). Both the infographic and full report are free to download and share with attribution to David A. Ortiz and Wisconsin’s Green Fire.

2023 VCLRA Summer Newsletter

Our latest newsletter is available online (print edition out soon). Read about:

  • Six-county workshop/annual meeting on July 14th featuring an expert panel on law-enforcement challenges affecting the health and enjoyment of our increasingly-crowded lakes and rivers;
  • Update on wake boat resolutions;
  • Free workshops on new toolbox to help protect and improve your lake
  • VCLRA scholarships awarded to two area high school seniors;
  • Spiny water fleas;
  • Permanent Shoreland Protection & Workshop on June 26th
  • Northwoods LIGHTS OUT! campaign;
  • and more!

2023 6-county lakes & rivers workshop

This year’s 6-county lakes & rivers workshop will take place on July 14, 2023, 8:30 am-12:30 pm, at Nicolet College in Rhinelander. The annual event is co-sponsored by the Oneida and Vilas County Lakes and Rivers Associations. In addition to expert briefings on timely subject areas by distinguished presenters, we will have a moderated panel to discuss the law enforcement challenges stemming from enhanced wake boats and other watercrafts, short-term vacation rentals issues, zoning violations and other areas that impact the health and enjoyment of our Northwoods lakes and rivers.

Eric Olson, director of UW-Extension Lakes, will be opening and moderating our workshop and panel. It should be a great event involving a prominent group of speakers to kick off meaningful dialogue about issues our lake communities deeply care about in the Northwoods .

As in the past, VCLRA will hold its annual meeting following the conference. The event is free and no registration is required. See draft agenda for more details. Updates may follow as the agenda is finalized.

For more information, contact Tom Ewing (VCLRA) at president@vclra.org or Ted Rulseh (OCLRA) at trulseh@tjrcommunications.com, or use the contact form at vclra.org/contact/.

Winter 2022-23 newsletter available

Our Winter 2022-2023 newsletter is available online (members who get print copies will get these by mail in a few weeks). Read about Hazardous Wake Issues, Blue Heron Stewardship awards, AIS prevention and much more…

View newsletter

2022 Vilas County Lakes Conservation Partners Meeting

Join other local lake organizations, professionals, and volunteers next week on Friday Oct 28 from 9:30-Noon at the Boulder Junction Community Center for the annual Vilas County Lake Conservation Partners Meeting. Each year Vilas County Land & Water facilitates this networking and planning meeting centered around lake conservation work. Hear what neighboring groups are working on, check progress with the Invasive Species Strategic Plan, and voice priorities your group might have for local lake conservation.

Agenda – 2022 Vilas County Lakes Conservation Partners Meeting

Vilas County Invasive Species Strategic Plan 2020-2024

2022 Six-County Lakes & Rivers Conference Presentations

Presentations from the 2022 Six-County Lakes & Rivers Conference
Friday July 15, 8:30a – 12:30p, Lakeside Center, Nicolet College, Rhinelander
The original announcement for this annual event hosted jointly by VCLRA and OCLRA is here.

PRESENTATIONS:

Welcome/Updates: Patrick Goggin, Lakes Specialist – UW-EX Lakes

Policy Picture/Lake Carrying Capacity: Mike Engleson, Executive Director – Wisconsin Lakes

Wakeboats Impacts/Remedies 1: Chuck Becker, SafeWakes Minnesota Lakes

Wakeboats Impacts/Remedies 2: Jeff Meessmann, Last Wilderness Alliance

Tourist Rooming Houses/Access and Viewing Corridors: Bob Thome, Oneida County Supervisor

AIS: Shoreline Inspection: Joe Steinhage, Two Sisters Lakes

AIS: Full-Time CBCW: Keith Montgomery, Black Oak Lake

 

Aquatic Invasive Species 2022 Snapshot Day is August 20

Join the statewide search for aquatic invasive species!

This statewide, one-day event connects volunteers, water lovers, and local groups in a search for aquatic invasive species (AIS). You can help protect Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes from these invasive plants and animals that negatively impact habitat, wildlife, recreation and health. This event is coordinated in partnership with UW-Madison Division of Extension, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, local partners, and YOU!

Assisting in the search for aquatic invasive species in the area is a fantastic way for individuals to help out your local community and ecosystem, with no experience required! Volunteers can register for the location of their choosing; the NLDC will be participating in the “Manitowish Waters – Vilas County” location. For those who would like to learn more about the aquatic invasive species in the area, Emily Heald will be hosting an optional volunteer AIS training on August 12, 2022 from noon-1pm over Zoom (Click here to register).

For more information about the 2022 Snapshot Day, visit their website.

Science on Tap: Using Science to Wrangle AIS

Wednesday,  January 5, 2022 6:30 pm —
Live Event – Oakfire Pizza, Minocqua

UPDATE — due to Covid this is now a remote event.
Visit  http://www.scienceontapminocqua.org/ to connect.

Michelle Nault is the statewide lakes and reservoir ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Water Quality and is responsible for providing technical guidance to a wide variety of lake management and restoration efforts.  Michelle will discuss how the DNR and its partners use science to deal with these troubling aquatic invasive species.

Read more “Science on Tap: Using Science to Wrangle AIS”

Attitudes toward aquatic invasive species

Photo credit: Alison Fox, University of Florida, Bugwood.org

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison recently produced a report about lakeshore property owners’ attitudes toward aquatic invasive species management strategies. The report, which summarizes the results of a survey taken by over 700 individuals identified as owning property on a lake in Wisconsin, includes numerous insights that can help lakeshore property owners and lake association leaders make management decisions consistent with their goals.

Read more “Attitudes toward aquatic invasive species”