WHITE BEAR LAKE — The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office Water Patrol Unit asked for and received more hours to keep law and order on White Bear Lake.
Calling the lake a "mini Minnetonka," Sgt. Jeremy Bolen-Knutson told the Lake Conservation District that increased traffic on the lake is driving the request for more patrol.
"After the pandemic, everyone appeared to buy Jet Skis and boats," the sergeant said. "We would like to double our current 120 hours to enforce public safety laws and educate boaters." The increased hours would allow deputies to spend time on the lake on their days off.
Officers are already dealing with complaints at Memorial Beach, Bolen-Knutson told the board. "People are moving buoys closer to shore so they can tie up their boats (in shallower water) and hang out. I don't want to use the word ‘party’. We want to prevent that from happening. If boats get too close, we will have incidents."
A couple weeks ago a boater was arrested after moving the buoys, the deputy said. Someone approached the boater and "threats of violence were made. It was implied a weapon was on board the watercraft. We responded and made a DUI arrest out of the incident."
And then there are the jet skis out during the "golden hour" before sunset. "We're doing what we can to enforce that law and educate people," Bolen-Knutson said. "We remember faces. There are only five of us in water patrol, so we run into the same people. If they're not getting it, we write citations so they will get it. If it's juveniles, we call their parents."
Part-time deputies typically work Friday evenings and during the day Saturdays and Sundays. Added contract hours allow full-time deputies to work weekdays just on White Bear Lake. He pointed out that the county has 86 lakes and 18 miles of Mississippi River to patrol.
"We'd like to increase the hours dedicated to White Bear," Bolen-Knutson said. "The lake is getting busier. We're doing the best we can, but we don't have staff to be on the lake all day, every day."
District Chair Bryan DeSmet thanked the sergeant for the "valuable" information and asked board treasurer Diane Longville if money was in the budget. The answer was yes, and the board approved a new 2021 contract, doubling hours to 240 or a cost of about $10,000.
DeSmet then informed the deputy the board is receiving email complaints about Jet Skis and speeding. The speed limit on the lake is 35 mph. The deputy said to keep forwarding complaints to water patrol Commander Eric Bradt.
Dellwood board member Meredith Wahlburg wanted the deputy to know she sees young children riding on the front of pontoons dangling their legs in the water. "It is illegal and awful to see," she told him. The sergeant noted they have enforced laws against bow riding in the past. He will pass her complaint along to his deputies.
White Bear Lake Director Scott Costello believes the community appreciates more law enforcement, especially with the increased lake usage. "It's a good use of our money," he commented. Dellwood Director Scott O'Connor concurred that "the lake is busier than I have ever seen it."
In the past, Washington County has shared water patrol duties with Ramsey County but evidently doesn't have the personnel to keep an officer on the lake. District counsel Alan Kantrud told the board he'd had conversations with the Washington County sheriff, who said they are very busy with the St. Croix River and Forest Lake, so their presence on White Bear is largely reactionary. Kantrud suggested residents contact their commissioner if they want that to change.