RWVL Responds to DEC’s Draft Rule for Wakeboat Regulation

Responsible Wakes for Vermont Lakes (RWVL) applauds and supports the decision by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to move forward with rulemaking and establish a new Public Water Use Rule, thereby recognizing the importance of protecting our inland lakes and ponds. RWVL strongly supports the rule drafted by DEC and recommends its further strengthening to better protect water quality, lake shorelines, property resources, and human safety, both now and in the future. 

Specifically, RWVL recommends employing a wake sport operational distance from shore of 1000 ft—the distance originally proposed by the RWVL—not the DEC’s proposed 500 ft minimum distance. After researching and evaluating scientific evidence, discussing possible solutions, and anticipating future growth of wake boat sales, wake boat size, weight, horsepower, and wake height, RWVL continues to recommend its original rule, coupled with the addition of the DEC’s Home Lake Rule. This recommendation builds on Vermont’s commitment to protecting its natural resources but does not prohibit wake sports in appropriate locations and is therefore mindful of the rights of all Vermonters. As boating popularity continues to grow, proper management of Vermont’s lakes and ponds becomes essential to protect these fragile, vulnerable, and economically important natural treasures.

A wake boat can generate large, surfable wakes. When wake surfing occurs too close to shore or in water that is too shallow, these heavier, more powerful watercraft can inflict environmental harm, damage property, and create safety risks for other lake users and negatively impact Vermont’s vibrant tourist economy. Inappropriate wake boat operation is also inconsistent with several Vermont laws, rules, and policies that reflect the State’s longstanding commitment to preserving water quality, protecting lake and pond ecosystems, and safeguarding traditional lake uses (e.g., Vermont Use of Public Waters Rules; Vermont Shoreland Protection ActWater Quality StandardsAquatic Invasive Species Transport Law).

RWVL’s Petition filed with the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) on March 9, 2022, asks the State of Vermont to honor its commitments by reducing the adverse impacts of wake sports while continuing to provide appropriate opportunities for wake sport enjoyment. Specifically, the Petition asks the State of Vermont to:

·         Increase the distance from shore for enhanced wake surfing activity from the current, outdated 200 ft (required for all motorized boats) to the scientifically supported, safer, protective distance of 1000 ft.

·         Allow enhanced wake activity to occur only at lake depths greater than 20 ft.

·         Require wake sports to occur only in areas of at least 60 contiguous acres that meet the 1000-ft distance from shore and the 20-ft depth requirements.

In January 2023, the DEC issued a draft rule for wake surfing recommending:

·         An operation distance from shore of at least 500 ft—half of RWVL’s proposed distance.

·         An operation depth greater than 20 ft—the same as RWVL’s proposed minimum depth.

·         An operation area of 50 contiguous acres—less than but close to RWVL’s recommended 60 acres.

·         A “Home Lake Rule” restricting each wake boat to one lake only, its designated “Home Lake,” unless undergoing decontamination by a DEC-approved facility before entering another Vermont waterbody. This additional requirement is designed to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species associated with wake boat ballast tanks and has RWVL’s full support.

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