Michigan report suggests wakeboating restrictions

A new report from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources looks at the impacts of wakeboats and offers recommendations to limit their effects on lake environments and the safety of other people enjoying the water. The report observes that operating wakeboats so as to create large waves “increases bottom scour is an emerging threat to natural resources in inland lakes. These boats, notably in wakesurf mode, can produce waves with up to 17 times the energy of other powered boats of comparable size. Meanwhile, because they operate in a “bow up” posture, there is a significant downward component to the propeller wash. This, according to the report, generates “enough turbulence to resuspend bottom sediments in water up to 33 feet deep.”

The report also notes that the enhanced waves take “between 225–950 feet to dissipate to heights and wave energies observed 100–200 feet away from similar boats operating at cruising speed.” Another issue is that the ballast tanks used to weigh down the boat stern and enhance the wakes increase the risk of transporting invasive species and pathogens if the boats are moved from one lake to another. “The cumulative negative effects of wakeboats on natural resources can lead to loss of habitat, resulting in the decline of aquatic ecosystems and angling opportunity…As a result of the large waves and increased scour caused by these vessels, the existing 100-foot operating buffers around docks and shorelines on inland lakes are not sufficient to protect aquatic resources. The DNR Fisheries Division therefore recommends these measures to limit the effects of wake surfing and wake boarding:

  • Boats operating in wake-surfing or wake-boarding mode, during which boat speed, wave shapers, and/or ballast are used to increase wave height, should operate at least 500 feet from docks or the shoreline, regardless of water depth.
  • Boats operating in wake-surfing or wake-boarding modes should operate in water at least 15 feet deep.
  • Ballast tanks should be completely drained before transporting the watercraft over land.
  • Regulatory authorities and the boating industry should implement an increased education and outreach campaign that targets wakeboat operators to improve awareness and implementation of these best practices.

You can read the full report at https://mymlsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/DNR-Wake-Boat-Report.pdf.