White Bear Lake Conservation District helps fund study on impact of boat wakes

The University of Minnesota used crowdfunding to finance a study that will look at the impact of large wakes generated by powerful boats for surfing.

The University of Minnesota is researching the impact of boat wakes on state lakes and launched a crowdfunding campaign earlier this summer to finance the study.

The $94,000 goal was reached last week when White Bear Lake Conservation District board members voted to give $2,000 to the university at its Aug. 17 meeting.

“The board has received complaints about excessive wakes over the past few years, but there is as yet no solid scientific data to support any action,” noted district member Scott Costello of White Bear Lake. “A bill was introduced in the state Legislature to limit wake boat operation to more than 200 feet from shore, but that didn’t go anywhere. We are hoping that with better data, we’ll be able to make a more informed decision in the future.”

The one-year research initiative will look at the height and energy of waves and depth and force of propeller wash generated by wake boats and other large watercraft to better understand and quantify the impacts on lake bottoms and shorelines. The information can help build understanding on how best to manage and protect lakes and rivers in the future, according to the campaign website.

Wake surfing is one of Minnesota’s hottest lake sports. Surfers cruise behind boats that create massive wakes, sans tow ropes. Opponents worry that the large waves are eroding shorelines and disturbing vegetation and sediment.   

The project at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory also intends to develop a prototype wave monitoring sensor station and training program that will enable interested citizen scientists and organizations to collect data on their lake of interest.  

Reaching the goal will allow researchers to activate a fall 2020 field campaign looking at both wake and propeller wash impacts, as well as develop the wave monitoring system for 2021. 

Costello said the conservation district has a tradition of funding research. In 2014, for example, the board purchased equipment for a climate station to support research on water level fluctuation in White Bear Lake. 

For more on the crowdfunding effort and the latest figure raised, see http://c-fund.us/rv3. 

— Debra Neutkens

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