By Ivan Raconteur
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN Wright County Board was flooded by a deluge of residents who supported implementation of a temporary emergency slow/no-wake ordinance on area lakes Tuesday.
Extraordinarily high water levels on many lakes have led to concerns about erosion and property damage.
Assistant County Attorney Greg Kryzer prepared a draft ordinance in response to requests from county residents.
Kryzer said the state delegates the power to enact such ordinances.
The purpose is “To promote the full use and enjoyment by all of the people, now and in the future, and to promote safety for all persons and property in connection with the use of the waters of Wright County,” as well as to conserve the quality of the natural environment and promote the general health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the county.
Many of the residents who spoke in favor of the ordinance during Tuesday’s meeting represented area lake associations.
Vince Lundeen, board member of the Pleasant Lake Association, said his house has been sandbagged, and he has been using three pumps to try to keep water out of his basement.
Some of those present said many people already have water in their yards, and recent rain has raised concern for low-lying property.
Others expressed concerns about erosion and property damage.
Roland Froyen of the Clearwater River Watershed District said things have changed quite a bit since he moved to the lake in 1946. Boats are larger and faster now, and much of the natural vegetation that once protected the shoreline has been removed.
Deputy Joe Mackereth, who coordinates the Wright County Sheriff’s Volunteer Water Patrol, said high water is a problem across the county.
The volunteer water patrol includes members of lake communities who help the sheriff’s department water control division to monitor recreational traffic on lakes, and report any dangerous or illegal activity.
Kryzer said the county is not authorized to implement a blanket no-wake ordinance for the entire county. The DNR requires that all affected lakes be listed separately.
The board adopted a temporary emergency slow/no-wake ordinance. The ordinance applies to areas within 300 feet of shore on Cedar Lake.
The ordinance applies to the entire lake for all other lakes on the list, including Albion Lake, Lake Augusta, Bass Lake, the Clearwater Chain of Lakes (including Lake Louisa, Lake Marie, Lake Caroline, and Mill Pond), Clearwater Lake, East and West Lake Sylvia, Henshaw Lake, Locke Lake, Nixon Lake, Pleasant Lake, Swartout Lake, and Sugar Lake.
The ordinance will remain in effect until Saturday, Oct. 1. The restriction will be removed on specific lakes when high water levels have subsided and have remained below an elevation of 6 inches above the “ordinary high water mark one” for three consecutive days, as determined by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources lake level Minnesota monitoring program gauge.
Approval of the emergency ordinance was greeted with enthusiastic applause and cheers from the audience, a rare occurrence during county board meetings.
Commissioner Rose Thelen, who sponsored the ordinance, said, “The county board implemented this emergency procedure as a result of citizens working together with their lake associations, the Clearwater Watershed District, Wright County Soil and Water, and the Wright County sheriff and attorney’s offices to address the critical need to address the impact of record high levels of water eroding shorelines, damaging property, and ultimately posing a long-term threat to water quality.
“When lakes are as much as 2 feet over their ordinary high water mark, any wave action is a concern, but where it is exacerbated by large wakes from motorized watercraft, an immediate response was required. I am confident that anyone who loves the lakes will understand how important it is that we do as much as possible to keep them from degrading during this short-term emergency situation.”
Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty said his department will be posting notices along all of the public access points, and stopping boaters who are traveling too fast.
“We will be approaching the first few days with the objective of educating the public about this ordinance. We know that some people will intentionally violate this ordinance. Those individuals will be subject to a misdemeanor criminal citation,” Hagerty said.
The sheriff’s office intends to have an increased presence on the lakes while this ordinance is in effect.
“Pressure on the lakes has been extreme this summer,” Hagerty commented.
Kryzer noted that the ordinance can be amended during any board meeting, and can be expanded to include other lakes in the county.