Wisconsin Lakes

We Speak for Lakes

WI Lakes

Second wakesports bill would protect Wisconsin’s lakes

Using standards from the recent Wisconsin Conservation Congress resolutions, Sen. Andre Jacque’s proposal provides a compelling alternative to AB656/SB680

Wisconsin Lakes Supports this Proposal (with the condition noted below)

Sen. André Jacque (R-DePere) entered the wakesports fray last week, releasing a proposal that would manage wakesports on Wisconsin waters under terms largely in line with those proposed in recent popular Wisconsin Conservation Congress resolutions. The proposal is being circulated among legislators looking for co-sponsors with a deadline of December 14. Wisconsin Lakes is in support of this effort, with the one caveat noted below.

We recommend you encourage your legislators to support the terms of this bill while asking for the change of language to preserve the general right to sue reckless boaters (explained below), and if appropriate for them, to co–sponsor the legislation. 

The proposal, currently referred to by its Legislative Reference Bureau number “LRB 5069”, would

  • Prohibit the creation of intentionally amplified wakes on any lake smaller than 1500 acres in size
  • On lakes 1500 acres and larger, such wakes would be prohibited within 700 feet of the shore, or from any boat, swimmer, or other individual using the water
  • Local authority to pass ordinances with stronger or additional standards would be retained for these lakes as well.

This is all diametrically opposed to AB656/SB680, the bill introduced by Sen. Mary Felzkowski and Rep. Rob Swearingen that would restrict wakesports within only 200 feet from shore and on lakes only 50 acres or smaller (wakes are already prohibited on most of these lakes in Wisconsin), It would also eliminate local authority to enact stronger regulations (though it would allow weaker local standards).

Wisconsin Lakes supports the 1500 acre prohibition and 700 foot from shore rule and we encourage legislators to support this legislation which will go a long way to protect most Wisconsin lakes from the negative impacts of wakesports and drastically reduce the chances for aquatic invasive species transfer that can occur because wakeboat ballast tanks do not fully drain. 

The bill does, however, contain one unintended consequence of its language. We’ve raised the issue with Sen. Jacques and believe it will be fixed in the final draft

By placing the new statutory language in the section of the statues that it does and using the existing term “hazardous wake” it inadvertently limits a specially created statutory right for an individual to sue any boater whose driving, intentionally or not, creates a wake that causes harm to the person or their property. Under the proposal’s current language, that right to sue would only exist for person’s harmed by intentionally amplified wakes. The right to sue needs to be preserved in cases of negligence or recklessness, and so we’re offering only conditional approval of the bill language as written.

Fortunately the solution is to simply move the language to a new section of the statutes and use a term such as “enhanced wakes” instead of “hazardous wakes.” As noted, we believe that such a change is in the works, and while we wait for final language to fully endorse, we’re confident that the change will be made and support the standards proposed in the bill with that one caveat.

What you can do

Encourage your legislators to support the terms of this bill, ask for the change of language to preserve the general right to sue reckless boaters, and if appropriate, co–sponsor the legislation.