Jim Brakken, BCLF & Northwest Waters
This past legislative session was a great one for our lakes. Several measures were signed into law that will protect our waters and those who use them. The Bayfield County Lakes Forum was in the vanguard as several of these new measures struggled for passage.
“The Lakes Forum and our partners teamed up with our local legislators and, with support of conservationists from across Wisconsin, accomplished some amazing achievements,” said Jim Brakken, president of the BCLF. “What was thought to be an impossible agenda just several years ago is now a reality. A conservation-minded Wisconsin Legislature and broad support from lake advocacy groups were key to this success. This is an example of what can be done when determined folks unite for a good cause. The laws just passed will save our lakes and the plants and animals that depend on them. Perhaps they will even save lives,” said Brakken, in reference to Act 31, the new 100 foot from shore Slow-No-Wake law.
The drowning of 22 year old Gina Winters in 2000, just two years after Brakken proposed this idea to WAL and the DNR, was one of the catalysts that helped get it passed. The police report said the boat she was riding in was traveling 25 feet from shore at 25 to 30 mph when Winters was knocked out of the boat by an overhanging tree limb.
“Had this new law been in effect then, this tragic event may not have happened,” said Brakken. “This is only one of many accidents involving high-speed boating that have taken place close to shore in recent years. And, although there are always some who will complain,” he continued, “there are thousands of parents and grandparents who will appreciate this new regulation. The health of our lakes will benefit from this too.”
The Bayfield County Lakes Forum is now turning its attention to educating boaters about this and the other new laws. “The last thing we want is for folks to come to our lakes and get cited for violating a law that they never heard about. The BCLF will work with our local lake associations, conservation clubs and governments to get the word out,” Brakken said.
The 100 foot no-wake buffer is only one of several new lake laws now in effect.
Page 15 of the 2010 Wisconsin Boating Regulations booklet spells it out: