Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A New Year, New Wake Legislation Proposal

Update - This bill was passed as HB 2116. Click here for a full update.

Meet House Bill 1591, legislation proposed by House Representative David Wood of District 58 intended to curb wakes on the Lake of the Ozarks. This is actually a follow-up to a bill filed in 2015 that never even made it to committee. This prior bill would have made intentionally creating large wakes within 300 feet of a dock, pier, or anchored boat an offense.  The bill died unceremoniously due to a lack of legislative oxygen.

This new proposed bill is a bit more ambitious than the last, seeking to not only make enforcement more realistic, but adding the ability for lake shore residents to create no-wake coves with a simple majority rule.

It has been said, that the reason Water Patrol does not enforce the no wake zones and life jacket rules is due to the overly harsh penalties for an infraction. Currently not having a life jacket for each passenger is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $185, including court costs. This new bill would effectively reduce the fine to a $25 citation. Likewise no-wake zone infractions would also be $25 but would go against the owner of the vessel, and not the driver.

This all goes on the theory that a more manageable and fair penalty for infractions will encourage enforcement and with more people getting more tickets, boat owners will get with the program and change their behavior.  Let's unpack that just a bit.  The Water Patrol considers itself under-manned already and with law enforcement emphasis on more pressing safety concerns such as BWI's and BUI's, it's not likely that infractions for safety or being a nuiscance are going to suddenly become the crusade of choice for the Water Patrol.  But okay, I can't make any argument against decriminalizing being stupid about safety, or being inconsiderate to other peoples property. I just don't see it as a solution to the problem, only another excuse to enrich coffers.

Changes to the rules to create no-wake coves is the real sea change here presented by Mr Wood's bill.
HB1591 allows a simple majority of homeowners in any given cove the right to create no-wake zones if their cove has a main juncture (mouth) of less than 800 feet (75% for 400 feet). 800 feet is quite a distance when it comes to the mouths of cove openings on Lake of the Ozarks.  I haven't done the research on 800 feet, but can say I've done it for coves with less than 1200 feet of main juncture when it was proposed and found that there were only 3 coves on the entire lake that would not have ended up as no wake had it passed. Offhand, I would say the majority of main junctures from the main channel are 800 feet or less in distance. If a simple majority of homeowners in the cove is all that is needed to turn it into a no-wake zone then it won't be very long before the only place you can make speed or be on plane creating a wake is in the main channel. If you've ever been to Grand Lake in Oklahoma, you know what that's like. Arguably a different lake because it is controlled by the Corps of Engineers, the experience of having to idle a long way just to get to the main channel isn't exactly my idea of boating.

I'll keep an eye on the bill and see if it has any legs. Currently it's had two readings, which is just introductory, but it has not been sent to any committee as of yet.  So far it doesn't seem to have much support.

I don't wish to disparage Mr Woods in his efforts, I understand it's a legislators job to try and address the issues their constituents have brought to them, and wake issues have been on everyone's mind for quite some time now, but I still contend that there is very little that can be done through legislation to address wake issues on this lake..