Sixty-six people spoke at two public hearings on August 1 and 3, in-person and on-line, regarding the proposed rule to manage wakesports. 94% supported managing wakeboats on Vermont lakes. 85% supported a stronger rule than the one proposed by the Department of Environmental Conservation; 23% favored a complete ban on wakesports on the inland lakes; and 62% supported a 1000-foot offset. Only 9% supported the DEC’s 500-foot offset, while 6% preferred no rule at all.
Most speakers mentioned the effects of wakesports on the traditional uses of our lakes: swimming, fishing, kayaking, waterskiing, and the enjoyment of nature. 70% spoke of the damages caused to shorelines and lake bottoms, while 64% were concerned about the safety of other lake users confronted with large wakes. 41% mentioned the damage to wildlife from wakesurfers.
The four speakers who opposed the rule were all wakeboat owners or dealers, who thought the rule unfair to their enjoyment of the lake, or saw no pressing need for rulemaking. These oral comments are likely representative of the written comments received by the ANR.
The Agency of Natural Resources has provided many opportunities over two years for public involvement in the development of this rule. Three public comments sessions and two public hearings drew 190 participants. 750 written comments were received. Responsible Wakes for Vermont Lakes applauds the Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation for their willingness to propose a rule and for providing so many opportunities for citizen participation.
We know the Agency remains busy with pressing flood-related issues and understand that their taking time to host these hearings and read the hundreds of written comments represents an extraordinary effort. We urge them to amend their proposed rule to make it stronger, so as to keep wakesports in deep water more than 1000 feet from shore, and only in our 19 largest lakes.
Even though the official public comment period has ended, RWVL nonetheless encourages you to speak up by submitting letters to the editor and op-ed pieces about the need to manage wake boats in Vermont — now, before they do permanent damage and become an even greater public safety problem and inflict greater environmental and economic damage while spoiling of our lakes and ponds.