This Action Alert was to the HLWA members and our coalition partners on March 6, 2023.
On February 23rd the Board of County Commissioners heard a recomendation from the Kootenai County Waterways Advisory Board, the Sheriff’s office, and the Parks and Waterways Department, that Ordinance 2021-63 20-38 be rescinded. This is the excessive wake ordinance that we all worked so hard to have approved several years ago. On Hayden Lake that is 300 feet from dock, shoreline, or person in the water for boats that are towing or plowing.
Sgt. Miller, on behalf of the KCSO, proposed 150 feet from shore on the Spokane River, but also proposed restrictions for times of towing/plowing, i.e. none on weekends between 10am and 6pm, and none at all on the 4th of July. There were no protections suggested for other lakes and waterways.
The Parks and Waterways Department wanted the times for no towing to be from 12pm to 6pm on weekends and the 4th of July, with no mention of additional protections for other waterways.
The KCSO recommendations stem from two concerns:
1. Inadequate personnel to enforce existing guidelines. The Sheriff’s department has been unable to recruit and hire marine patrol officers. They anticipate that they will have three two-man teams and one full time deputy for all the county waterways this summer.
2. Difficulty of enforcing illegal wakes and distance from shorelines; in particular they don’t care to enforce different distances on different waterways.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Leslie Duncan stated that she voted against the current ordinance twice, saying that she feels people should police their own behavior, and since the ordinance can’t be enforced, it should be eliminated. She is not in favor of public hearings as she feels she has heard enough already.
Commissioner Brooks is opposed to rescinding the ordinance and thinks a public hearing is necessary. New Commissioner Mattare thinks he should hear from the public, but no decision was made about public hearings on February 23rd.
THE COMMISSIONERS ASKED FOR PUBLIC INPUT IN WRITING.
LET THEM KNOW HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT ELIMINATING THE EXCESSIVE WAKE ZONE ON HAYDEN LAKE.
Key points you may consider:
It is the responsibility of our Commissioners to protect the public safety; those living on or around the lake, fishermen, kayakers, swimmers, etc. Finding enforcement officers should be their primary concern, instead of the approach of abandoning rules just because they can’t be enforced. DO WE ABANDON ROADWAY RULES LIKE SPEED LIMITS AND STOP SIGNS BECAUSE WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH DEPUTIES?
State law also states that is the responsibility of the commissioners to protect private property. Hayden Lake docks, boats and shorelines are damaged every day from excessive wakes. State law also says that at no time will you operate a boat that causes damage to property. IF YOU’VE HAD DAMAGE OR AN EXPERIENCE WITH PERSONAL SAFETY BEING ENDANGERED, PLEASE NOTE THAT IN YOUR LETTER.
Our organization has worked hard to educate the public with mailings, signage, and distribution of written information to the residents and boating public. We have distributed over 5,000 information cards. Education and the presence of the 200 foot buoys owned by the Watershed Improvement District have led to an improvement of boater compliance with wake zone rules. WHY THROW THESE RULES OUT FOR OUR LAKE? ITS WORKING HERE. PEOPLE ARE SMART ENOUGH TO FIGURE OUT DIFFERENT RULES WHEN THEY’RE FISHING IN DIFFERENT LAKES, WHY CANT THEY TAILOR THEIR BEHAVIOR TO COMPLY WITH OUR LAKE’S EXCESSIVE WAKE REGULATIONS?
Erosion and turbidity generated by excessive wakes provide nutrients for invasive weed growth and compromise the fishery. THIS IS WELL DOCUMENTED, BOTH IN OUR EXPERIENCES AND THROUGH ACCREDITED RESEARCH.
Write to the Commissioners with this link - Contact the Board of County Commissioners
Also send a copy to: firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will make sure the commissioners see your letter.
This Action Alert Update was to the HLWA members and our coalition partners on March 14, 2023. The KC Board of Commissioners has announced that they are only the Excessive Wake Zone designation for the Spokane River.
ACTION ALERT UPDATE
“The Spokane River is currently the only body of water being reevaluated for potential changes in excessive or no-wake zones.” From Jonathan Gillham, Communications Coordinator for the BOCC.
Mr. Gillham said, "The testimony at the hearing was 'confusing' and that during his presentation, Parks and Waterways Advisory Board Chairman Harris did offer a recommendation to rescind ordinances 2021-63 and 2020-38." After the meeting, Chairman Harris confirmed to our representatives who were at the hearing that the Advisory Board’s intention is to have all the no-excessive wake rules in the county rescinded.
Mr. Gillham went on to say that, "Kootenai County Sheriffs Office and Parks & Waterways Director Nick Snyder’s recommendations were to change the “excessive wake” portion to a no tow-zone during the peak hours of the river for the safety of boaters." and "The Commissioners only received this information and listened to public testimony. The Commissioners are currently only looking at evaluating the situation on the Spokane River."
Considering the conflicting information we received from the Parks and Waterways Director and the Chairman of the Parks and Waterways Advisory Board, we are not convinced that the subject of rolling back the no-excessive wake zone ordinance will end with a decision about the Spokane River. Expanding the scope of the discussion is still a possibility in the future, given the sheriff department’s lack of manpower and other factors.
WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP IN THE PROCESS AND WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you have written a letter expressing your concerns about the potential for rescinding the ordinance, we feel that it will be helpful and is appreciated. If you haven’t written yet, please do, and indicate that you understand that the Special Meeting on the 29th is for the Spokane River, but urge the commissioners not to expand the scope to include rescinding the no wake zone on Hayden Lake. It is important for the commissioners to understand how closely we are monitoring the Advisory Board and BOCC actions as they relate to the health and safety of our lake.
We would still encourage you to attend the BOCC Special Meeting scheduled for 2 pm on March 29 as a show of support for the future of the Spokane River. We anticipate the agenda being posted by or on March 24. It is important for everyone to hear the reasoning and discussion behind whatever decisions are made in this Special Meeting.
We will continue to update you when there is new information, particularly if the scope of rescinding the no-excessive wake zone ordinance expands to incorporate all the county waterways.
How the Excessive Wake Ordinance was Won
Reporting on the Excessive Wake Ordinance Battle in the Coeur d'Alene Press