home‎ > ‎

Wisconsin Lakes: The Lake Policy Report

June 25, 2015: Other budget updates

While the budget still cuts numerous scientists and educators at DNR, basin educators
and the Stewardship Fund fared better with JFC

The Joint Finance Committee approved the governor's proposal to cut 18 positions, some of them federally funded, from DNR's Science Services division, though only nine of those positions are currently filled.
In addition, a number of Natural Resource Educators, mostly state park naturalists, would lose their funding.
The committee did, however restore full funding to the regional "basin" educators, and arrived at a compromise that restored some land purchasing authority to the Nelson-Knowles Stewardship Fund. Stewardship land buys were to be shut down altogether until at least 2028 in the Governor's proposal.

Policy Bites

Water Legislation to Watch

As the legislative session progresses, WI Lakes will follow a number of different bills and proposals that affect the lakes and waters of Wisconsin. In addition to the items discussed elsewhere in this Lake Policy Report, the following items are of special note:

AB47 - Providing flexibility to local government appointment of representatives to lake district boards: AB47 would allow local governments to appoint a citizen, rather than require an elected official, to be their representative on the board of commissioners of a lake district. The bill passed the state Assembly with bipartisan support, and the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee held a public hearing on the measure on May 13. WI Lakes executive director Michael Engleson testified in support of the bill, arguing it would not only provide flexibility for local governments, but also help solve the problem of meeting quorum if the elected official consistently failed to attend meetings, as well as help build relationships between districts and their local government by making it more likely the town or city representative is present and engaged in the activities of the district. The bill has been passed by both the Assembly and Senate and awaits Governor Walker's signature.

AB165 - Assembly unanimously passes bill allowing towns limited zoning in shorelands:
 AB165 passed the Assembly unanimously on May 13 and is headed to the Senate. The bill would allow towns with zoning authority to zone within shoreland areas on matters not covered by the county shoreland zoning ordinance. This reaffirms what had been standard practice before a court recently interpreted Wisconsin law to prevent towns from any zoning whatsoever in the shoreland areas. The law also states that a town ordinance with stricter standards than the county shoreland zoning ordinance, in effect prior to the passage of the county ordinance, remains in effect even in relation to the shoreland standards.
The bill has been passed by both the Assembly and Senate and awaits Governor Walker's signature.

SB110/AB157 - Liability protection for individuals placing navigational buoys:
 Under a proposal in the state legislature, holders of a permit to place buoys to mark navigational hazards, or persons being directed by a holder of such a permit, would be exempt from civil liability for any damage caused by the placement of, or failure to place, the buoys or other markers. The bill has been introduced as SB110 in the Senate and AB157 in the Assembly. An amendment to the original bill clarifies that intentional acts do not qualify for the liability exemption. WI Lakes testified in favor of the bill, arguing the benefit of increasing the likelihood of hazards being marked exceeds the risk of prohibiting an injured party from pursuing a claim against a person who places a buoy incorrectly.
The Senate passed the bill, and it is awaiting action in the Assembly.

SB180/AB256 - No spotter required in boat with rear view mirror: 
This bill would allow boaters to pull a waterskiier or something similar without having a second "spotter" in the boat, if the boat was equipped with a rear view mirror with a wide field of vision. Critics note that if the driver of the boat is focused on the person being towed, they may not see hazards in the water or small watercraft such as canoes and kayaks.
The Senate passed the bill, it is waiting action by the full Assembly.

AB214 - Slow-no-wake & proximity restrictions do not apply to "hydro-flight" devices and the boats powering them:
 Have you seen people flying on a column of water in your lake? This bill would exempt users of such "hydro-flight" devices and the boat or other personal watercraft powering the device from the slow-no-wake restriction within 200ft of the shoreline and the prohibition of being within 100 ft of a swimmer. The bill raises a safety question for swimmers, and begs the question of whether use of these devices within 200 feet of the shoreline would create wakes that increase shoreline erosion.
The bill is currently awaiting a hearing from the Assembly committee on Tourism.
Check this space in the LPR each month for more explanation, analysis, and to learn WI Lakes' position (if we have one) on bills that impact our waters.
Key: "SB# #" is the bill's number in the Senate. "AB# #" is the bill's number in the Assembly. "LRB# #" is the Legislative Reference Bureau's number for a bill that has not been formally introduced yet into one house or the other. "SB# #/AB# #" means companion bills have been introduced in both houses.

The Conversation
Other changes to lake district law?

Hydro-flight devices might not be the only trend coming to impact lake shorelines. Another rising trend in boating recreation is "wake surfing", with boats and devices on the market designed to increase the wake created significantly.

While that admittedly sounds like it might be fun, it might also cause a lot of damage to the shoreline from the increased wake action, not to mention increased safety risks (couple this activity with the "no spotter required" bill, and things might get even dicier).

So what do you think? Should Wisconsin do something more than it is now about artificially enhanced wakes? Can local ordinances handle the problem? Do you participate in these activities, and if so, how would you feel about either statewide or local restrictions on what is allowed?

As always, if you have comments or thoughts on this issue, send them to mengleson@wisconsinlakes.org, and we’ll publish some of them in the next Lake Policy Report.

Lake Policy Digest:

Stories of lake and environmental policy from around Wisconsin

Budget would limit county regulation of shoreland development (from Wisconsin Public Radio)

Don't bar counties' ability to protect shoreland (a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial)

Budget would weaken counties' ability to protect shoreland (from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

A vast conspiracy to depopulate the north? (from The Northwoods River News)

Know of other stories of lake policy from around WI that we should be consider to add to next month's issue? Send them to us at info@wisconsinlakes with "LPR Digest" as part of the subject line.