Wake Boats and the Averill Lakes
In Section II (Object) of the Articles of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Averill Lakes Association are two paragraphs:
“The promotion of the principles of conservation of the plant and wildlife of the area. The promotion of recreational sports. The encouragement of ecology and the public education in the principles of conservation and restoration. To maintain an active and helpful interest in the passage and enforcement of State legislation wherein our interests are evident.”
“The association shall at all times through its members, work towards the prevention of property destruction and shall cooperate with non-member landowners in order to promote better understanding between them and the association”
These paragraphs have come to life as the State of Vermont, lake communities in the Northeast Kingdom, and specifically the Averill Lakes Association in cooperation with ARCO, the Averill Corporation, individual property owners, and local businesses wrestle with pending regulation on recreational Wake Boating with the conservation of native plants and wildlife (especially Loons), shoreline stability, and the threat of aquatic invasive species (AIS).
Late this summer an article appeared in Seven Days that describes the challenges associated with this recreational activity. Unlike motorboats used for water skiing, wake boats are large watercraft specially designed to create a big rear wave for wake surfers. Large water tanks serve as ballast, tipping the rear of the boat down and extending the propeller deep into the lake. After getting up on the wake, typically by use of a tow rope, the wake surfer will drop the rope, and ride the steep face below the wave's peak in a fashion reminiscent of ocean surfing.
In recent years these boats have started appearing on Vermont’s smaller lakes and a petition has been filed by some shoreline homeowners and lake users calling on the state to regulate where and how wake boats are used because of risks to the environment and disturbing the peace and tranquility of current lake recreation.
If the petition were to be accepted “as is” Little and Big Averill would be on the list of inland lakes that would allow wake boats. Oliver Pierson, head of the DEC's Lakes and Ponds division, has decided to amend the petition after hearing from lake associations, citizen action groups, and reviewing scientific data on wake boat impact around the country. He wants the proposal to be science based and simple. He intends to use criteria such as size of lake (acreage) in conjunction with a depth parameter that's a far enough distance from shore to minimize wave action on shorelines. This still may include the Averills on the list of inland lakes permitting wake boats.
The ALA is very concerned about non-resident wake boat owners “trailering in” to our lakes because the very design of the wake boats themselves risk the spread of AIS. Boats with ballast tanks such as wake boats can carry AIS between lakes because these ballast tanks cannot be visually checked or fully drained. Standing water left in ballast tanks can harbor microscopic live zebra mussel eggs. Even a few gallons of water from another waterbody could contain thousands to millions of microscopic zebra mussel larvae or other AIS such as Eurasian water milfoil - an invasive weed that forms dense mats on lake surfaces, clogging propeller blades and competing with native plants.
Many of you reading this might think that because the former State of Vermont Water Resources Board (WRB) prohibited the use of personal water craft on the Averills in 2003 that Wake Boating would also be banned. (The current water rules for the State of Vermont including the Averills can be found here.) But that is not necessarily the case.
As such your ALA board has been collaborating with numerous local landowners, businesses, associations, and an ad hoc regional coalition with counterparts at Caspian, Echo, and Seymour Lakes to educate, inform, and align on navigating this rule making process. This collaboration also extends to the DEC itself. On October 27th, ALA Board Member Susan Gresser, Jim Clemons on Big Averill, and Julie Brochu of ARCO met with Olivier Pierson of DEC’s Lakes and Ponds division to explore the implications on long established recreational uses (like fishing, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking), nesting loons, the rationale for the PWC ban, and the risk of AIS in our lakes.
Any proposed regulation will go from the DEC to Julie Moore, the secretary of their parent Agency of Natural Resources who could decide to take the next step to bring it to the state legislature’s rulemaking process to amend the Vermont Use of Public Waters Rules. Based on how these rules evolve the ALA and others have communicated to the DEC that we will explore filing our own petition on behalf of our communities.
Stay informed and stay tuned. We will inform you on latest developments here at averilllakes.org.
On behalf of the ALA Leadership and Board of Directors