The board of commissioners in Pine County, Minnesota voted on April 6 to adopt new rules for boating on two lakes in Pine City, and the short stretch of river between them. Boaters must now travel at slow speeds with minimal wake when the water is high.
The Minnesota DNR defines slow no-wake speeds as the “slowest possible speed to maintain steerage, but no greater than 5 mph.”
No-wake rules will now be in effect whenever one of the following conditions is met: When Pokegama Lake’s water elevation is at or above 935.5′, when Cross Lake’s water elevation is at or above 935.0′, or when the United States Geological Stream Gauge Station 05338500, located near the Cross Lake Outlet, is at 6′.
Restrictions will be lifted when the water has remained below those levels for three days.
County Land and Resource Manager Caleb Anderson told the board that, based on a review of water levels in recent years, the conditions could be met anywhere from zero to three or four times per year.
The ordinance was welcomed by lake shore residents, whose shorelines docks are threatened by large wakes during high water. The county sheriff was also supportive, because it gives the department clear guidelines and enforcement power for what had previously been left up to discretion.
Wakes can also hurt lakes and rivers, especially during high water when erosion washes large amounts of soil and organic matter into the water. That can muddy the waters, and contain nutrients that feed harmful algae.
Both Pokegama and Cross Lakes are considered “Lakes of Biological Significance” by the state of Minnesota, selected for their unique plants or animals. Pokegama Lake is also a designated wild rice lake. Both lakes are also popular for boating, fishing, swimming, and other recreation.
The position of Pokegama and Cross Lakes at the top of the Snake River’s final run to the St. Croix also means the material can easily be carried far downstream. Parts of the St. Croix River are designated as “impaired” for high levels of nutrients.
In studies conducted to help improve water in the lower St. Croix, the Snake River has been identified as the single greatest source of nutrients. Numerous projects have been implemented to reduce runoff, and the no-wake rules could be one more way to achieve that.