Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Public Hearing - relating to the establishment of a slow-no-wake zone on the “narrows” of the Wisconsin Dells

June 22 - Pursuant to §§ 23.28(3), 227.11(2)(a), 227.24 Wis. Stats., interpreting § 28.28(3) Wis. Stats., the Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing on revision to ch. NR 45, relating to the establishment of a slow-no-wake zone on the “narrows” of the Wisconsin Dells. at 5 p.m. at the Kilbourn Public Library, 620 Elm Street, Wisconsin Dells. This emergency order took effect on May 15, 2010. This provision prohibits motorboats from going faster than slow-no-wake, defined as the minimum speed required to maintain steerage, on an approximately 0.7 mile long stretch of the Wisconsin River at the Dells of the Wisconsin River state natural area. Currently, no fixed speed limit exists on this stretch of the Wisconsin River other than “reasonable and prudent speed” and the general laws that regulate 1) speed of personal watercraft in the vicinity of other boats, and 2) the speed of boats towing persons within defined distances of anchored and occupied boats. This regulation is intended to improve public safety and help minimize user conflicts. In the last few years, the conservation warden for the area has received a number of complaints from boat operators regarding the user conflict of high speed recreational boats operating close to the larger and less maneuverable boat tours. Accidents and near misses have been documented in this stretch of the river. This rule is also being advanced as a permanent rule which was authorized on March 16, 2010, but will not be promulgated in time for this summer’s heavy use season. In order to minimize the potential for accidents during the 2010 season, this is being advanced as an emergency rule. There are four commercial enterprises that operate boat tours in the Upper Dells on the Wisconsin river; two run both traditional tour (cruise) boats and jet boats, one runs exclusively jet boats and one only operates a tour/dinner boats. When contacted by the department, all the tour boat operators said their normal practice is to go slowly through the area anyway, so there would be no impact to them on their scheduling. They expressed support for a slow-no-wake regulation because their ability to navigate is often jeopardized by recreational watercraft attempting to jump the wakes of their boats or trying to maneuver around the larger boats at high speed. The distance of the slow-no-wake area is approximately 3,700 linear feet. The proposed rule and supporting documents, including the fiscal estimate, may be viewed on the Wisconsin Administrative Rules or may be obtained free of charge by contacting Kathryn Fitzgerald, Kathryn.fitzgerald@wisconsin.gov , or by calling (608) 267-2764. Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before June 25, 2010. Written comments may be submitted by U.S. mail, fax, E-mail or through the internet and will have the same weight and effect as oral statements presented at the public hearing. Written comments and any questions on the proposed rule should be submitted to: by Kathryn Fitzgerald, Wisconsin DNR, LF/6, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, Kathryn.fitzgerald@wisconsin.gov , or by calling (608) 267-2764. For more information contact Conservation Warden Barbara Wolf, (608) 273-6277.

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