Our Lakes Need Your Help

by Ted Rulseh, President, Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association

You are invited to share this information with your lake association, district or friends group and with your personal networks. Excerpts from Ted’s email:
Our lakes are at a critical juncture, as they face growing threats that include:

  • Hazardous wakes from high-powered wake surf and wakeboard boats
  • Tourist rooming houses that, while introducing families to the charms of the Northwoods, also add to lake crowding and may overtax septic systems
  • Continued risks from aquatic invasive species
  • Inadequate zoning protection for sensitive lake shorelines
  • Potential future impacts from metallic sulfide mining and large-scale livestock operations

Addressing these and other issues will require strong effort from those who care about the environmental integrity and scenic values of the Northwoods, which form the foundation of our tourism economy and quality of life. Are you willing to step up?

Wake boats: A rising wave
If you have wake boats on your lake and find the waves they create disturbing, you are not alone. Among lake property owners across Wisconsin (and other states), moves are afoot to regulate these boats, and to secure scientific data to justify restrictions on their operation.

This year the Town of Woodruff passed an ordinance covering Mid Lake (on the Minocqua Chain) that forbids operating a boat creating an elevated wake more than 50 feet long within 700 feet “from any shoreline, dock, pier, raft or other restricted area.” The ordinance defines an elevated wake as being greater than 24 inches. The Town of Hayward in Sawyer County has adopted a similar ordinance.

Meanwhile, an organization in the Vilas County Town of Presque Isle, the Last Wilderness Alliance, is urging the town board to adopt an ordinance to restrict wake boating. The sum and substance of the proposed ordinance is: “The operation of a boat in a manner that intentionally magnifies its wake for recreational purposes such as wake boarding, wake surfing or wake jumping is prohibited on any lake or river within the township boundaries.”

Various scientific studies are under way in Wisconsin, Minnesota and elsewhere to document the impact of enhanced wakes. Anecdotal evidence of harm from enhanced wakes is abundant. Ultimately, scientific data is the best way to justify regulating what increasingly are called “hazardous wakes.” To cite one concern, growing evidence suggests that wake boats have significant impacts on lake bottoms, stirring up sediment and re-suspending phosphorus.

If you are interested in wake boats and their impacts, detailed information is available via the Last Wilderness Alliance, https://lastwildernessalliance.org/. Also check out this report from the Michigan DNR Fisheries Division: https://mymlsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/DNR-Wake-Boat-Report.pdf.

New book explores threats to our lakes
The University of Wisconsin Press has just released a new book by OCLRA president Ted Rulseh, “Ripple Effects: How We’re Loving Our Lakes to Death.” The book takes an in-depth look at the various threats to the lakes of the Upper Midwest and how the waters can be protected. You can find out more at https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/5965.htm.