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.

Changing climate impacts our lakes

by Dea Larsen Converse, larsenconver@wisc.edu 

A recently released report on climate impacts to water resources in Wisconsin from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) shows that warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are impacting Wisconsin’s wealth of water resources. The last two decades have been the warmest on record in Wisconsin and the past decade has been the wettest.

“The warming climate is having an impact on water resources in Wisconsin. We need to increase the magnitude and urgency of actions to protect and restore habitat and enhance water quality to make Wisconsin’s waters more resilient to climate change.”

– Katie Hein, WICCI Water Resources Working Group Co-Chair

Yet, there is hope. The WICCI report suggests solutions to prepare for and minimize climate impacts to water resources, like increasing water storage across the landscape, installing green infrastructure, protecting wetlands, building outside of flood zones, and installing flood warning systems. Visit the Water Resources Working Group webpage to learn more. There is hope for the future, but it is up to us.

Read more here.

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Dea Larsen Converse is Communications Director for Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts, a nationally recognized collaboration of scientists and stakeholders working together to help foster solutions to climate change in Wisconsin. 

Photo credit: Deer Lake Morning by Kevin Sink

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”

New study shows the economic impact of clean lakes

As a follow up to investigations into the economic value of waterfront properties in Oneida and Vilas Counties, researchers from UW-Eau Claire, researched the link between water clarity and the sale prices of waterfront homes. This research project was proposed by the Vilas County Land & Water Conservation Dept. and the Oneida and Vilas County Lakes and Rivers Associations, and funded by grants from the Lumberjack RC&D and the UWEC Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Read more “New study shows the economic impact of clean lakes”