No wake to a better lake

By Madeline Seveland

Roads closed, basement remodels on the rise, and the mosquitoes, insane. This has not felt like an ordinary summer for many of us with the multiple impacts from rain that would have made Noah visit his local lumber yard.

One of the mostly noticeable differences this summer has been the lack of roaring boat motors. Many lakes in Carver County and around the metro area have had “slow no wake” laws in effect since June. No wake means operation of a watercraft at the slowest possible speed necessary to maintain steerage, but in no case greater than 5 m.p.h.

But the near end of summer and the longing for boat rides, water skiing, and simply getting where we want to go in a timely fashion, can make us restless. While it may seem inconvenient, it’s important to remind ourselves that slow no wake laws serve a purpose in preventing property damage, ensuring public safety, and protecting lake and shoreline health.

Much of the need for no wake laws comes down to shorelines.

The shoreline is the area of land adjacent to the water body. Intact, natural shorelines hold soil in place where the land meets water, preventing erosion. They provide vital fish and wildlife habitat, filter pollutants from stormwater runoff and are resilient to high water levels, wave action and ice.

But many of our shorelines are no longer natural. Instead they are altered either with mowed grass right to the water’s edge, or riprapped.

With little roots to hold soil in place, mowed shorelines are more likely to erode away with wave action and ice. Riprap has potential to fail, as some did this year, also resulting in shoreline erosion.

Erosion leads to a loss of property from the landowner and an increase in pollutants (soil and phosphorus) to the lake.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, these altered shorelines contribute five times more stormwater runoff, seven to nine times more phosphorus and 18 times more sediment to the lake than natural shorelines.

On top of that, altered shorelines displace wildlife.

Natural shorelines are home to a vast majority of songbirds, waterfowl, turtles, fish and other animals that rely on them for shelter, food and nesting grounds. Loss of this habitat has resulted in measured declines in songbird diversity and frog populations. For more information on shorelines, visit www.extension.umn.edu/environment/shoreland/

Natural shorelines provide these values all the time, but they are particularly important when water levels are high and wave action from boats can increase shoreline erosion (especially mowed shorelines).

While frustrating to have to poke along at low speeds, as citizens we must remember the important role lakes play in our lives and communities and do what we must to keep them healthy.

The restriction on Lake Waconia was lifted on Monday, Aug. 4. For the most recent status of any other local no wake laws, check with the Carver County Sheriff’s office at (952) 361-1231.

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