Monday, July 4, 2022

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Spurred by New Report, MN Explores Boat-Safety Policy

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Monday, January 31, 2022   

Boat shows are taking place around the country as water recreation enthusiasts look ahead to this summer's season.

A new Minnesota report underscores discussions on how to keep people on the lakes safe, while protecting natural settings. The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued findings from a survey of nearly 3,000 recreational boaters.

In the metro area, nearly 45% of respondents cited high wakes from other boaters as a problem. Those concerns coincide with the popularity of wake-surfing.

Jeff Forester, executive director of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates, said in talking with lake associations, the marine industry and other stakeholders, it is clear something needs to be done.

"All the groups are coming around to the idea that we need to take action to protect public safety," Forester stated. "To ensure that people that are out recreating on the lakes are having a good time, and we don't negatively impact the resource while we're doing it."

Forester said it is important to remember high wakes can create environmental damage, such as shoreline erosion. His group prefers mandating all watercraft operators obtain a permit.

A bill was introduced last year but did not get a hearing. Its sponsor, along with the DNR, said expanding the requirement could be part of broader talks this year to add safety measures.

Adam Block, boating law administrator for the DNR, said concerns about certain boat activity comes as sales surge during the pandemic. Over the past two years, Minnesotans have purchased more than 16,000 new motorized watercraft.

With a number of them larger and faster, he said they are taking a fresh look at how to approach the boating experience, and education is a part of it.

"We continue to see many new boaters brought into this sport," Block observed. "And this is not just for Minnesota, this is happening across the nation."

Block noted the overall effort follows a near record summer last year in boater fatalities. He added talks can be expected in the legislative session, but it is unclear if action will be taken, and what the scope would be. Lawmakers are expected to be focused on other matters, including a bonding bill.

Disclosure: Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Public Lands/Wilderness, Sustainable Agriculture, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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