Saturday, May 18, 2024

Wakes on waterways should be managed

| May 16, 2020 1:00 AM

Waves are created by the temporary displacement of water. Once displaced, water rebounds above its static level and eventually, after a few or many oscillations, resumes its static level. The energy expended to push the water down and begin its oscillation is radiated outward in the waterbody as a wave.

We are all familiar with wave creation. The wind does it often. Tossing a stone into a pool is the classic case. Rocks in a flowing stream displace water causing standing waves. Boats both large and small create waves. Waves can be a nuisance. Observe whitecaps on a lake during windy conditions. You will not see many people out on that lake enjoying the large waves.

However, some people seek wavy conditions. Whitewater kayakers and rafters would be disappointed with a stream that is slow flowing and calm. Wake surfers enjoy riding a well-directed and formed wave. The same wave at the amplitude enjoyed by the wake surfer or even somewhat degraded can give a shoreline resident enjoying their floating dock or a child fishing on that dock, an unwanted ride.

Given our ambivalent feelings concerning waves, it is hardly surprising excessive boat wakes create some fairly hard feelings between the different user groups on and around our waterways. A modest list of those users includes fishing, waterskiing, paddle boarding, kayaking and canoeing, pleasure boats, wakeboarders and surfers, swimmers, tubers, and those enjoying the shorelines and docks.

Anybody using our waterbodies over the years can confirm that use has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. With demands of all types of lake and river recreation increasing, it stands to reason that this increased use requires regulation. To argue otherwise would be like suggesting that increased traffic on U.S. 95 through the Coeur d’Alene-Sandpoint area should not be addressed.

The department of transportation has spent millions addressing the traffic increase, largely by increasing capacity. Our commissioners cannot add to the waterbodies of the county. Our lakes and rivers are a fixed resource. Instead the commissioners must regulate the uses for the benefit of all the recreational users. Hence swimming areas are protected from boat incursions and the 200 feet no-wake zone was instituted years ago to protect on and near-shore recreational use from motorized recreational use.

The most recent recreational use is wake boarding and surfing on large waves created by boats specifically designed to create large waves, so-called excessive wakes. Just as motor boaters were required to modify their activity near shores to maximize the recreational experience of all users, the latest proposed ordinance would regulate those creating larger wakes than most water craft to protect the enjoyment of other recreational users. Even with a 300 feet excessive wake ordinance in place, 95% of Kootenai County’s waters will remain available to these boats to produce large wakes. Is this really so much to sacrifice for the enjoyment of all of Kootenai County’s water sports recreationists?

Let the Kootenai County commissioners know your thoughts on excessive wakes at

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Geoff Harvey is a longtime resident of Hayden Lake’s south shore.