We, the people of Vermont, many years ago entrusted you, the Agency of Natural Resources, through our elected representatives in the General Assembly, to preserve and protect those traditional enjoyments of our lakes and ponds, including swimming, boating, fishing, and the enjoyment of nature, for the benefit of current and future generations.
You, the Agency, acted on that responsibility over the years, banning jet skis in the 1990s, implementing the Shoreline Protection Act in 2013, limiting the spread of aquatic invasive species, and resolving conflicts in the use of our public waters. Bravo.
We, the people, in the face of a new and invasive species of watercraft, asked you recently to adopt a strong rule to manage wakesports on those same lakes and ponds. We provided you with eyewitness accounts of their harm to Vermont lakes, swimmers, anglers, boaters, and enjoyers of nature. We provided you with scientific evidence of how their large artificial wakes preclude other uses of the lake, stir up bottom sediment to release phosphorous, and damage shorelines and structures.
You, the Agency, drafted a rule to manage these boats. Bravo. You added a home lake provision to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Bravo. You provided many opportunities for public involvement in developing this rule, more than for other similar rules. Bravo.
We, the people, participated in the rulemaking process, hundreds of us from all over the state: anglers, kayakers, paddlers, lake associations, camp owners, water skiers and swimmers, advocating for a strong rule that would keep wakesurfing 1000 feet from shore, in deep water, and on only 19 of our largest lakes.
You, the Agency, proposed a weak rule, cutting the requested distance in half to only 500 feet, thus increasing the number of lakes open to wakesports from 19 to 32. What a shame. At the same time, you also provided more opportunities for public comment. Bravo.
We, the people, responded with public comments unprecedented in both number and clarity. We sent you 759 written and 66 oral comments, advocating for a stronger 1000-foot rule by a ratio of more than 8 to 1. We watched as support for a strong rule grew at 15 lake associations (including FOVLAP), several selectboard meetings, three public hearings, and in the press (an average of one article a week over the past year). We asked you to amend the proposed rule to restore its original 1000-foot strength.
You, the Agency, now must decide whether to strengthen the rule in response to this public input, as called for in the Administrative Procedures Act that defines the rulemaking process in Vermont. We trust and hope that you will strengthen the rule before it goes to its final review by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.
We, the people, await your decision.
— Are you listening, ANR? It’s We, the People.