EDITORIAL: Regulation of wake boats needed

Sep. 28—Wakesurfing is growing in popularity on Minnesota lakes and generating growing debate over regulating or banning it.

For those who haven't seen them, wake boats produce huge wakes generated by powerful motors and deep large propellers designed to create the wakes. People are pulled on wakesurf boards behind the boats, going back and forth over the wakes.

It's understandable why the activity is a lot of fun. But the fun comes at a cost to many lakes and to others trying to enjoy them. The Legislature needs to continue looking at how the boats should be regulated.

While noise and large waves generated by the boats are the primary concern for others trying to enjoy the lake, the boats also can be damaging to lakes and aquatic life.

Opponents of regulating wake boats argue that water skiing boats and Jet Skis have managed to coexist on lakes and so should wake boats.

But wakesurfing is vastly different from water skiing or Jet Skis.

Ski boats are designed to create little wake, and while Jet Skis produce some wake, their smaller size is less intrusive, although Jet Skis clearly have their critics.

Beyond the massive wakes, wake boats produce a constant, higher level of noise, destroying the peace and quiet people seek by going to the lake.

The propeller wash from the boats can uproot vegetation and stir up sediment, with critics saying they can impact the lake bed 16 feet deep. Sediment that is stirred up adds phosphorus to the water, fueling algae growth and clouding the water.

The large wakes also can affect loons and fish and erode shorelines.

The Legislature in the last session debated different bills on wakesurfing but took no final action.

A bill, by Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-Spring Lake Park, would restrict wake boats within 200 feet of shore, prohibit wake boats on lakes 50 acres or fewer and on waterways that are fewer than 500 feet wide.

Sen. Bill Weber authored a bill that would limit wakesurfing within 200 feet from shore, docks, swimmers and other boats.

Critics argued both proposals were not strict enough and could still allow for shoreline damage.

Minnesota has always treasured its lakes and has taken various steps to protect water quality, aquatic life and the right of others to enjoy peace and quiet. There are already no-wake zones on many lakes and regulations protecting loons, fish, wildlife and water quality.

The Legislature, with the help of the Department of Natural Resources, needs to more deeply study problems related to wake boats and the best ways to limit them. Saying restrictions are wrong because they limit someone's fun is not a valid argument. Protecting lakes and everyone's right to enjoy them must be the focus.