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Wake boat controversy leads to listening session with lake leaders, community members

The controversary surrounding the boats has been ongoing for several years.

MOUND, Minn. — It's that time of year when the weather warms up and people hit the lakes.

Boating is so popular in Minnesota that it has a $3 billion economic impact.

Wake boats are especially trendy right now, but critics say they're loud and damage the environment. But how to keep everyone happy, is still up in the air.

The Lake Minnetonka Conservation District (LMCD) is considering new rules for wake boats that churn up waves that surfers can ride. 

The LMCD hosted a listening session for the first time Wednesday night.

"What we're finding is that wake surfing is really a great disrupter on our lake and probably one of the biggest disrupters we've ever seen," said John Bendt, who leads a neighborhood group that's concerned about the impact on the lake.

Bendt calls the current regulations outdated and suggested new rules governing a distance further from the shoreline and time slots for the boats to operate.

"Is it fair for the less than 1% to not be willing to share the water with other users," Bendt asked.

He also cites a recent University of Minnesota study that found the boats can create waves five to 13 inches higher than non-wake surf boats, and that it takes at least 500 feet for its wake to dissipate. 

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"The U of M study went in with a singular, narrow focus to target a specific kind of boat because that's where the funding was for them," said Michelle Mueller, who owns Minnesota Inboard Water Sports. "We shouldn't put our eggs in that basket."

Representatives from the boating industry say that wake surfing is family friendly and safe.

To help "quiet the waters", they say they have already enacted what they call core tenants, including asking boaters to stay 200 feet from shore, limit repetitive passes and they provide one-on-one education to new boat buyers.

"Those common courtesies are the ones I try to instill on individuals because it's a few bad apples that wreck it for everybody," said Jeremy Wahlberg with River Valley Marine.

The boat reps argue that closing the lake to wake boaters or penalizing them will only drive them to take their tourism elsewhere.

The listening session lasted several hours, the board noting it may hold another one, but that it doesn't have plans as of yet to make any decisions.

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