No wake order keeping boaters at bay on St. Croix

9:15 PM, Jul 4, 2013   |    comments
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STILLWATER, Minn. - On the shores of the St. Croix River, Larry Cole is used to getting his boat ready on the Fourth of July, but he's not so used to being one of the few to do so.

"You got a lot of people just staying in the marina or didn't come out at all," said Cole.

He believes people are staying away because of the no wake order in effect on the river.

"People aren't going to take their 'go-fast boats' out because they can't go fast," said Sgt. Jim Gribble with Washington County Sheriff's Office.

That's because the water is too high at 683 feet above sea level.

"State law indicates the river is no wake," he said when the water gets about 683 feet.

Authorities put the no wake in order in hopes of causing no more damage to a shoreline that's taken a beating.

"Farther down the river, their front door right now is literally 4 to 6 inches above the water level. And obviously any additional waves causes them concern," he said.

It means you have to drive your boat slow enough to avoid creating a wake, but fast enough to keep control. For most boaters, it means going only about five miles per hour.

"A lot of boaters like to spend some time on the docks because they can't go really fast to get anywhere," he said.

This is the first no wake order on Independence Day in Washington County for at least 13 years, says Gribble.

"We're at about 1/10th of the traffic," he said.

He anticipates many boaters, especially those in other cities, to stay away from the fireworks on the St. Croix Thursday night.

"Those people are farther away in Hudson, Wisconsin, Afton, Hastings," Gribble said. "They're not going to be up here to watch the fireworks in Stillwater because the journey up here will take them hours."

The water is expected to start receding, which for many cannot come soon enough. It is getting close to the bottom of the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

"Normally it would be 11 feet of clearance underneath the bridge and right now we have maybe three feet," he said. "If we don't get any heavy rain it should start receding in the next few days, I would hope."

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