Wisconsin Lakes

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Conservation Congress Voters Approve of Increasing Slow, No Wake Acreage

42% approve of and 32% hold no opinion on Spring Hearing’s Question 50

By Wisconsin Lakes Staff

Respondents to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Hearing Questionnaire supported or held no opinion on the idea of increasing the acreage threshold under which a lake would automatically be deemed “slow, no wake.” Currently, any lake of 50 acres or less is designated as “slow, no wake” in Wisconsin. The question asked if the Conservation Congress should work with the legislature to ensure that any lake with 50 or more acres of surface not already deemed slow, no wake is designated entirely slow, no wake.

The vote was in favor of the question in all but one county of the state. Overall, respondents voted 42% in favor of the question, 32% held no opinion, and 26% voted against it. 55,999 votes were cast in total on the question, with the vast majority (54,895) coming from Wisconsinites.

Conservation Congress votes do not create policy and are not binding, but they do instruct the Congress as to what it might set as a priority in working with the DNR and the legislature in the coming year. Spring hearings are typically held in all 72 counties of Wisconsin, but because of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, only an online vote was held. In all a record 64,923 members of the public voiced their opinion in the online survey on a panoply of conservation topics.

The idea behind Question 50 was that a minimum of 50 acres of “full-speed” surface waters is necessary for safe boating. For years, the 50 acre rule was standard in Wisconsin, but when state law was changed to make 100 feet from shore slow, no wake, some lakes suddenly saw boating traffic at full speed in less than fifty acres. With the increase in size, power, and number of boats in the state, proponents of the question sought to start a conversation to raise the amount of acres needed for a lake to allow full speeds. 

Detractors argue that the 50 acre figure is arbitrary to begin with and any increase is unnecessary and not backed by any specific data. Even some proponents admit that the rule is too simplistic to take into account the different shape and widths of lakes in the state. For instance, does a long but narrow 100 acre lake allow for safe high-speed boating?

Whether this idea moves forward remains to be seen. Regardless, Wisconsin Lakes is in favor of beginning a conversation about the impacts of recreational boating in the 21st Century on safety, property, and the ecology of our lakes as boating becomes more popular and boats become bigger and more powerful.

Information about the Wisconsin Conservation Congress and all the Spring Hearing results can be found on the DNR’s website.