OSHKOSH – Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Hart Key ruled Aug. 4 in favor of a town ordinance setting a no-wake zone on the Wolf River.
In April 2009, the Wolf River Town Board passed an ordinance extending an existing one mile weekend and holidays no-wake zone an additional one-half mile. The area covered by the no-wake zone is along a stretch of the river located southeast of Fremont and includes a number of campgrounds, boat launches, businesses and homes. It is heavily used by swimmers, boaters and anglers.
The Tri-County Powerboat Alliance (TCPBA) objected to the ordinance and requested a hearing.
At the Aug. 6, 2009, hearing, participants testified that the river was congested and that speeding boats create wakes that cause accidents and endanger other users.
TCPBA argued that the ordinance was unfair to powerboat owners, since it did not balance their right to use the river with the rights of other groups of users. TCPBA said powerboat owners should have equal access to the river.
Noting that this section of the Wolf River is 116 feet wide, TCPBA recommended imposing a speed limit rather than a no-wake zone.
Jeffrey Knorr, a warden with the Department of Natural Resources, testified that due to the many docks, multiple users and weeds, the boats often traveled close to one another and close to the shore.
Knorr said the no-wake zone will improve safety for those who use the river.
Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Boldt ruled in favor of the ordinance on Sept. 24, 2009.
TCPBA appealed the decision to the circuit court.
In its brief in defense of the ordinance, attorneys for the DNR argued that state law does not require equal access for all users, noting that “some public uses must yield if other public uses are to exist at all.”
In her ruling, Key said the ordinance extending the no-wake zone was consistent with state laws regarding the use of waterways.