by Melissa DeSimone, MLSA Executive Director

This issue is heating up and, predictably, people who have invested in wake boats and have enjoyed using them as they please up to this point are not happy about the proposed legislation that may restrict that use. In case you missed the announcement last week, you can check out our update about it here and read the details of HB 5532, here.  Though the point of this bill is not to remove fun or enjoyment from the lakes of Michigan, it can be hard to concede that something you enjoy might need regulation. It has NEVER been the position of the Michigan Lakes and Streams Association that wake sports shouldn’t happen, just that we need to make sure we consider the environmental and social impacts thoroughly so there is no lasting damage to our lakes and streams for future generations. That is why we contributed to the University of Minnesota based studies on the topic and have worked with people across the country to fully understand the lasting impacts.

Here are some talking points you may wish to use when discussing this issue:

  • The proposed legislation intends to limit wake augmentation to depths of 20 or more feet and a 500 foot distance from shore or other stationary objects. We are talking feet, not yards.
  • Analyzing all of the scientific studies available on the topic, MI DNR made the recommendation to restrict activity based on the water quality concerns (i.e. damage to shorelines, bottomlands, and fish habitat) which greatly backs up the legislation as it is currently drafted.
  • In addition to the concerns about the fishery impact, there is concern that the increase in wave action causes safety issues for other boaters and recreational activities on lakes.
  • Similar legislation already exists and/or is being researched in other states (OR, ID, VT, NH, ME, WI, MN) and Canada.
  • Sponsorship for HB 5532 is bi-partisan.
  • MLSA has provided funding for research as well as both awareness and consultation on the topic based on feedback and concerns from its members (i.e. lake associations and individuals throughout MI).
  • Lakes vary considerably in Michigan. There are many examples of narrow, shallow, and low acreage lakes where wake activity is particularly problematic.
  • The design of a wake boat is unlike any other vessel used on inland lakes and streams when the original boating laws were adopted. There was no way to predict the need for changes, much like when personal watercraft (PWCs) became popular and needed specific regulation.
  • The value of the lake is in its water quality, the health of its ecosystem, and beauty as a natural feature. Restrictions on boating activities have not and will not negatively impact property values around lakes, especially when those restrictions will protect the waterbody and its ecosystem.
  • Here is a web page for specific resources and further reading: https://mymlsa.org/lake-and-watershed-management/boat-wake-resources/
Is it on the Level…Legal Lake Level?
March 2024 Newsletter