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New High-Water Rules On Iowa Great Lakes

Spirit Lake, Iowa — There are going to be some new high-water rules on the Iowa Great Lakes going forward, dictating when boats may make a wake.

The Dickinson County Emergency Management Commission has decided to do away with the 600-foot rule. Normally, in normal water-level conditions, boats are not allowed to make a wake within 300 feet of shore. In the past, that distance was doubled during periods of high water. But the 600-foot rule has been removed.

There used to be two high levels on each lake at which action took place — a certain level for the 600 feet rule, and a higher level at which the entire lake becomes no wake zone. With the removal of the 600 feet rule, there is now just one action level — that for making the entire lake a no-wake zone with a 5 mph speed limit — and that is now a few inches lower than before, meaning that the lake doesn’t have to be as over-filled for the no wake and 5 mph rule to be enforced.

Dickinson County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Ehret says those levels will be two inches lower than in the past on Big Spirit Lake, from 24 to 22 inches above the level of the outlet and four inches lower on the chain lakes — East and West Lake Okoboji and so forth — from 30 to 26 inches.

Agency and community input from the high water experienced during the summer of 2018 were considered by the Commission in modifying the original plan. The plan was adjusted to incorporate enforcement concerns from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, input from various lake associations, and local businesses.

Emergency boats responding to an emergency do not have to follow the 5 mph rule, but if they’re not in emergency mode, they are to abide by the rule.

Questions regarding the plan may be directed to Emergency Management Coordinator Michael Ehret or Emergency Management Commission Chair Bill Maas.

Photo credit: Dean Hansen

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