When people refer to Minnesota, “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is often included as the tagline. There are officially 11,842 lakes that are ten acres or larger. Wright County, the one I live in, has about three hundred lakes within its 714 square miles, so you don’t have to go far to find a place to fish or recreate.
In addition to water quality and its management, lakeshore property owners are also concerned about preserving their shorelines. Depending on the lake, some have sandy beaches, some have clay to the water’s edge and have added rocks to make them more accessible, others are on a steeper grade and have built retaining walls with steps down to the water, as a few examples.
In high precipitation years, lake, river, pond, and ditch levels rise in conjunction, creating any number of problems. This past year, our area had nearly seventy inches of snow and was also the second wettest April on record. So as the snow was melting, instead of soaking into the saturated ground, the water gathered in low areas, including the lakes, and shorelines crept closer and closer to peoples’ homes. Waves on the water, either from strong winds, or motorized vehicles, can cause erosion. A bank in one of our county parks collapsed into its lake this spring during a high wind storm.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) established high water no wake restrictions a number of years ago on certain waterways to address this problem. In the last few years, a number of lake associations and lake improvement districts in Wright County have requested to be included in no wake restrictions. There are different levels of restrictions, but the most common one is when water levels reach the high mark, motorized vehicles, which can produce good-sized waves, are not allowed to go more than 5 miles per hour within 300 feet of the shoreline. On some lakes it’s within 150 feet.
According to the Minnesota DNR website, “All water surface use management starts at the local unit of government – town, city or county, depending upon where the lake or river is located. Any ordinances proposed by the local unit of government must have a hearing and be approved by the DNR before they can go into effect.”
This past June, the DNR declared emergency no wake zones, allowing local jurisdictions to impose restrictions for 30 days, or until levels receded below high water marks. As is the case with many rules and laws, I don’t think no wake restrictions would be necessary if people would use common courtesy and common sense when recreating on lakes and rivers. Do you have similar laws in your state?
Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County mystery series.