The Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association is revisiting its mission and looking to strengthen its role as an advocate for our county’s lakes and streams. To become more effective, we need more resources, most notably people willing to give their time and talent.
Our lakes are at a critical juncture, as they face growing threats that include:
- Hazardous wakes from high-powered wakesurf and wakeboard boats
- Tourist rooming houses that, while introducing families to Northwoods charms, also add to lake crowding and may overtax septic systems
- Continued risks from aquatic invasive species
- Inadequate zoning protection for sensitive lake shorelines
- Potential future impacts from metallic sulfide mining and large-scale livestock operations
Addressing these and other issues will require strong effort from those who care about the environmental integrity and scenic values of the Northwoods, which form the foundation of our tourism economy and quality of life. Are you willing to step up to support OCLRA in its mission of education, collaboration and advocacy on behalf of our waters? You can help various ways, such as:
- Volunteering to joining our board of directors
- Acting as a liaison to OCLRA on behalf of your lake organization
- Offering services like contributing to our website and eNews
- Testifying at public meetings on lake-related issues in our county
- Referring someone from your group who has the time, energy and talent to lend a hand
This is your chance to make a difference. If you can help in any of these ways, or others you may suggest, please contact Ted Rulseh by reply here or by phone at 715-277-4094.
Guests always welcome
The next meeting of the OCLRA board will be on Monday, October 10, at 9 a.m., at the ADRC building in Rhinelander (across the parking lot from Trig’s grocery store). All are welcome to stop in, meet the board members, and get a glimpse of the work we do.
Changing of the guard
The OCLRA board recently elected Ted Rulseh as president, succeeding Bob Martini, who resigned after ably leading our organization for the past 13 years. Bob will remain on the OCLRA board, where his expertise from leading vital water resource programs as a DNR staff member will be of immeasurable value.
Wakeboats: A rising wave
If you have wakeboats on your lake and find the waves they create disturbing, you are not alone. Among lake property owners across Wisconsin (and other states), moves are afoot to regulate these boats, and to secure scientific data to justify restrictions on their operation.
This year the Town of Woodruff passed an ordinance covering Mid Lake (on the Minocqua Chain) that forbids operating a boat creating an elevated wake more than 50 feet long within 700 feet “from any shoreline, dock, pier, raft or other restricted area.” The ordinance defines an elevated wake as being greater than 24 inches. The Town of Hayward in Sawyer County has adopted a similar ordinance.
Meanwhile, an organization in the Vilas County Town of Presque Isle, the Last Wilderness Alliance, is urging the town board to adopt an ordinance to restrict wakeboating. The sum and substance of the proposed ordinance is: “The operation of a boat in a manner that intentionally magnifies its wake for recreational purposes such as wake boarding, wake surfing or wake jumping is prohibited on any lake or river within the township boundaries.”
Various scientific studies are under way in Wisconsin, Minnesota and elsewhere to document the impact of enhanced wakes. Anecdotal evidence of harm from enhanced wakes is abundant. Here are a few examples gleaned from new reports:
“These waves are three to four times as powerful as [from] skiing…or tubing.”
“We have had damage due to wakes…We lost about 6‐8 feet of land around the peninsula that is our lot.”
“We’ve been knocked off the dock and bruised.”
“Forceful waves from these boats stir up sediment, releasing phosphorous and causing turbidity; impact the ecosystem by destroying fish eggs; and erode the shoreline…”
“Their wakes are huge, causing shoreline damage and destroying loon nests by swamping them.”
Ultimately, scientific data is the best way to justify regulating what increasingly are called “hazardous wakes.” To cite one concern, growing evidence suggests that wakeboats have significant impacts on lake bottoms, stirring up sediment and re-suspending phosphorus
If you are interested in wakeboats and their impacts, detailed information is available via the Last Wilderness Alliance, https://lastwildernessalliance.org/.
Also check out this report from the Michigan DNR Fisheries Division: https://mymlsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/DNR-Wake-Boat-Report.pdf.
A new look online
OCLRA has engaged a web developer to update and improve our website at www.oclra.org. Watch for the new look in the coming weeks.
New book explores threats to our lakes
The University of Wisconsin Press has just released a new book by OCLRA president Ted Rulseh, “Ripple Effects: How We’re Loving Our Lakes to Death.” The book takes an in-depth look at the various threats to the lakes of the Upper Midwest and how the waters can be protected. You can find out more at https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/5965.htm.