Wakesports Legislation Update
No hearings yet, but some positive movement on AB655/SB680? Here’s what we know on wakesports legislation in Wisconsin headed into the holiday break
By Wisconsin Lakes
With Wisconsin legislators mostly leaving the state capitol to be home for the holidays, it seems a good time to take stock of the recent flurry of wakesports related legislative activities and see where the different bills stand.
No hearings are currently on the schedule for any wakesports related bills, though we expect they could occur early in January. Because of the short amount of time before the end of the legislative session, they could very well be scheduled on short notice (only 24 hours of notice is required by statute). We’ll let you know if and when something gets scheduled, but you can also track the hearing calendar here!
The bill proposed by Sen. Andre Jacque that would prohibit enhanced wakes on lakes smaller than 1,500 acres and within 700 feet of shore for all other lakes is yet to be introduced. Though Wisconsin Lakes is not fully endorsing this bill yet because of a technical issue with the way it is currently written, we SUPPORT the proposal in general.
Wisconsin Lakes remains OPPOSED to this bill as introduced (read here for more information).
SUBSTITUTE AMENDMENT TO AB656/SB680
A proposed substitute amendment (an amendment that would completely replace the existing language), which has not been formally introduced, would:
- Prohibit wakesurfing and wakeboarding (“wakesports”) within 500 feet of shore or in less than 15 feet of water,
- Require a watercraft engaged in wakesports to be equipped with a depth finder,
- Require development of an educational course to be made part of the state’s standard boater certification program,
- Allow local governments to pass ordinances stricter than the standards contained in the bill, but…
- To enact a stricter ordinance, the local government would need to provide at least 1500 hours of enforcement on the lake over a two year period
Wisconsin Lakes appreciates the efforts by the authors to improve their bill, and it is certainly headed in the correct direction.
We are currently OPPOSED to this substitute amendment, however, because the enforcement requirement, which amounts to 37.5 hours per week over a boating season running from May through September, is unnecessary and proscriptive. It would be cost-prohibitive to run and force enforcement at times when it is likely not needed.
In fact, it’s so proscriptive, it’s effectively a de facto ban on stronger local regulations. Wisconsin Lakes will not support a bill that bans local management with stricter standards or requires an overly burdensome mandatory enforcement component.
The distance and depth standards in the amendment, while much better than before, are still not quite enough to be protective. Wisconsin Lakes supports standards of keeping wakesports at least 700’ feet from shore and from other lake users and at 30’of depth or deeper. At best, however, a prohibition on lakes of a certain size (we support the 1500 acre proposal) could be a cleaner, more easily enforceable option that encompasses a number of other concerns.
Despite our objections with the substitute amendment, we do see it as positive progress towards a bill we might all be able to support, and we caution all that this amendment is still in draft form and could look significantly different if and when it is introduced.
To all of you who have reached out to us and to your legislators on this issue, thank you! Your voices are instrumental in shaping this policy, and we would not be where we are today if not for your actions. Wisconsin Lakes will be here to keep you up to date as we rush towards the end of the legislative session early in 2024.