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Legislature passes bills to protect natural resources

Legislation that establishes a 100-foot slow-no-wake speed buffer from the natural shoreline for all motor boats was adopted by the Legislature on Thursday.

Legislation that establishes a 100-foot slow-no-wake speed buffer from the natural shoreline for all motor boats was adopted by the Legislature on Thursday.

Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, the author of the proposal, introduced the legislation at the request of the Wisconsin Association of Lakes to address the environmental and safety impacts of fast boating speeds near shorelines.

"Our water is our most precious natural resource and we must remain committed to safeguarding the health and integrity of this vital resource. The creation of this buffer zone will have a positive impact on the wildlife that depend on our lakes to survive," Jauch said.

The buffer zone will protect plants at the shoreline, birds that nest near shore and fish spawning areas from the negative effects of motorboats operating too close to shore. The legislation will also help cut down on erosion of lake shorelines, reduce contributing factors to algae bloom and reduce noise pollution near shore.

Perhaps most importantly, this bill will improve safety for boaters and those who fish, swim, canoe or play in water near shore. Many people have been injured and some have died because of boats traveling at fast speeds near shore.

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In 2000, a woman drowned in Nepco Lake in Port Edwards after being knocked out of a boat by a tree that extended over the lake. The boat was traveling 25 mph close to the shore.

"While boating is an important recreational activity that many people enjoy, it can also be very dangerous. This legislation puts into effect a common sense measure that can enhance boating safety," Jauch added.

Current law requires a 100-foot buffer near piers, landings and other man-made structures. While a similar buffer exists for certain personal watercraft near the natural shoreline, the law does not cover motorboats. The bill also gives a voice to lake associations and property owners by allowing local governments to consider local circumstances and pass more or less restrictive ordinances on slow-no-wake restrictions for motorboats.

"It is very gratifying that we have the opportunity to pass this and other important environmental legislation. Our stewardship will be appreciated for years to come," concluded Jauch.

The Wisconsin senate also passed legislation Thursday to designate portions of the Totogatic River as a state wild river. The bill, written by Rep. Nick Milroy, D-Superior, was passed by voice vote and now goes to the governor for signature.

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