Adopt-A-Highway clean-up Saturday, September 17! Join RFA members picking up litter along Highway 47. For more information, call Carla at 715-362-1947.
Annual meeting report:
Thank you to those members who came down to Hodag Park Saturday morning!
Rhinelander Flowage Association has a new president heading into its second year. Tom Rudolph was elected at the annual meeting of members on Saturday, August 6. Tom thanked outgoing president, Carla Chropkowski, for her service and urged those at the meeting to get more involved with the group and recruit more members.
The meeting was attended by over 20 members who heard presentations by Brent Hanson on shoreline restoration using native plants and Bob Martini on shoreland zoning issues and the role of Expera Specialty Solutions, owner of the paper mill dam, in monitoring and maintaining the Rhinelander Flowage.
Chris Lenard will continue as vice president and Sue Schneider as secretary and website editor. New to the board is Charlotte Schneider as treasurer. One more member is needed to fill out the five-person executive board.
Goals for the coming year will be set by the new board and are expected to include increasing membership rolls, continuing education efforts and pursuing the Healthy Lakes Initiative program to encourage better lake stewardship.
Future meetings are expected to be held one evening a month, to be organized by the board and announced on this website and the RFA Facebook page. Anyone who wishes to join RFA and/or be update on upcoming events and announcements is urged to use the Membership and Contact Us pages to join, or register their email address, or visit and “like” the Facebook page.
Want to receive notices of new stories on this site? Like us on our Facebook page!
Slow-No-Wake: Vital Regulation Presents Challenges in Enforcement
by Sue Schneider, website editor
The rules concerning Slow-No-Wake operation of boats on Wisconsin waters has not been on the books that long, according to Department of Natural Resources Warden Jim Jung. Since its adoption about 10 years ago (15 years for jet-skis), it has been covered in great detail for anyone taking the state’s boater safety course – required for younger operators – but many older boaters don’t know about it, he says.
In fact, the regulations don’t really address the exact size of a boat’s wake or a specific speed, either. “What it means is, in some places, like within 100 feet of a shoreline, dock or another boat or person, you are required to slow the boat to idle,” he explains. “You must be going as slow as you can while still able to maintain control and steerage. At this speed, there should be no wake.”
The law is quite clear, says Jung. “If a boat is on plane, it’s going too fast in a Slow-No-Wake area,” he says, “If the answer to the question, ‘Could you be going slower?” is yes, then you are in violation.”
The two areas of concern are safety of others and protection of shorelines and structures. Small boats, canoes and kayaks are easily swamped by large wakes, and often this happens when the offending boat has already passed by and doesn’t know enough to stop and assist.
While Jung has written tickets to boat operators creating hazardous wakes, liability for damage is not always clear. “Any damage claims against a boat’s wake would have to go through small claims court,” he says. “There’s no real legal recourse as yet.” That may be coming in the future, however, as other areas of the country have awarded substantial sums for such law suits.
Sensitive shorelines, which are common on the Rhinelander Flowage, can be damaged by wave action, undercutting tree roots and other land structures, causing erosion. Valuable property is, in some areas, under constant stress from wave action, and property owners are understandably concerned about losing frontage. Slow-No-Wake operation is important to avoid further degradation of shoreland.
Docks and piers can also be damaged by boat wakes. Most wakes dissipate within 100 feet, thus the rule requiring Slow-No-Wake speeds at that distance. How to determine the distance can be difficult, however, according to Jung.
He uses a laser range finder, which are generally available at sporting goods retailers or on line. “Most people have water-skied or pulled a tube behind a boat, and those ropes are 75 feet long,” he says. “If there is any doubt on how far you are from the shore or an obstacle, you need to either slow down or move out.”
Personal watercraft, sometimes known as jet-skis, have their own Slow-No-Wake rules. They must be operated at idle speed within 200 feet of shore or obstacles. Even at very slow speeds, these vehicles produce damaging wakes, and extreme care should be taken.
Wisconsin registers about 600,000 boats, according to Jung. “That doesn’t include canoes and kayaks and other non-motorized vessels. It also doesn’t include out-of-state boats that come in,” he explains. “We are a busy boat state.”
Jung himself is charged with patrolling a good portion of the over 1,000 lakes in Oneida County. “Of course I can’t be everywhere,” he says. “We answer a lot of complaints that come in on the DNR hotline and we try to concentrate on problem areas.”
While reports from citizens calling in on the hotline are valuable, they rarely result in adequate action. “Even if someone gets a boat registration number, we can’t really prove that the owner of the boat was actually operating the vessel,” he explains. “We can only write a ticket to an operator.”
Education is the most valuable tool that he has, says Jung. “Older boat drivers often don’t even know about the regulations,” he says. “We try to explain the rules and encourage everyone to check out the boating safety course, which is available on-line as well as in classes around the state.”
Slow-No-Wake buoys and signs are also a help in enforcement, he says. “It makes it a lot easier when you stop a boat and you can point to the marker and say, ‘There it is.’”
The process of acquiring and placing a buoy or marker is lengthy and complex. Anyone who is concerned about Slow-No-Wake violations in a specific area must take the issue to their town board, which will decide on the validity of the idea, then contact the DNR and fill out an application. “It’s become a lot easier lately with the use of GPS (Global Positioning System),” said Jung. “We can more easily assess a request and approve a buoy.”