High water levels mean slow down and wake responsibly

NIcki Polan

The past few years there has been a lot of discussion around the fact that a little consideration for your fellow boaters and lakefront property owners can go a long way toward avoiding any misunderstandings, conflicts and new laws. This conversation continues, but with the current water levels, the saying “Watch your wake, Share the Lake” goes to a whole new level.

Water levels are at an all-time high and this obviously presents many challenges, including dock damage, shore- line erosion and safety concerns. Your normally harmless boat wake may cause havoc in high-water conditions. High water means higher wake levels in relationship to stationary docks.

When these wakes hit the lower dock structures and the shoreline, they can cause dock and boat damage, and shoreline erosion. Additionally, water that overflows onto a dock that is located near a marina or any dock structure that has electrical power running to it can increase the risk for electric shock drowning (ESD.) ESD occurs when a person comes into contact with an electrical current in the water, often caused by faulty wiring from boats, docks and other devices not approved for shore or marine use. With our high-water levels there will be many instances where dock powering equipment is now located much closer to the water level than before.

Risks extend to kayakers and canoers as high-water levels can also cause fast-flowing water and other obstacles. A favorite water trail may become dangerous due to faster water, and potentially impassable when encountering low-hanging obstacles such as bridges or trees. Please remember, state law requires that all vessels, including kayaks and canoes, have appropriate flotation devices available for every person on board.

It is important we remind all operators of these concerns and that they are responsible for the wake created by their boat. Please also consider adding this information to your lake association website or online communications.

Boating offers a lot of freedom, but remember consideration for your fellow boater and lakefront property owner can go a long way toward avoiding any misunderstandings, conflicts and new laws. This year we can add erosion, damage and danger to this list of things we would like to avoid.

Nicki Polan is the executive director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association and a Michigan State Waterways Commissioner. As a lifelong boater whose family enjoys boating in both Oakland and Branch counties, Nicki enjoys sharing information about the benefits of boating lifestyle, legislative issues affecting the boating industry, and the incredible and diverse boating and fishing opportunities available in our Great Lakes state.

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