Sunday, 19 May 2013

Wakeboats: The "Hummers" on our Lakes (Updated July 8, 2013)

Wakeboats: The "Hummers" on our Lakes

Just how insane is having wakeboats on our lakes can be expressed in relative terms.  Their HP ranges can go from 330HP to 555HP.  This is about the same range of HP offered on Volvo tractor-trailer trucks, 325HP to 550HP.
Why do they need so much HP? Well for one thing, they have ballasts in the 1500lb to 2000lb range.  These ballasts are what weighs down these boats to cause those exceptionally high waves that not only generate shoreline erosion but also damage docks. 

Furthermore, the combination of the powerful waves bringing shoreline nutrients into the lake and the turbidity caused by their propellers- turbidity which can go down to a length of 9 metres and stay around for 24 hours --contribute to the proliferation of algae.

As for the less tangible merits of peace and quiet on what would otherwise be a peaceful weekend afternoon, one can forget about it when the wakeboats are out in force.  Even at slow speeds, these boats generate high waves, the noise of the waves and the boats combined making reading a newspaper on the dock a real challenge.  Here it is important to note that snowmobiles were banned from the St-Faustin (Québec Laurentides, near Mont-Tremblant) portion of the Parc-Linéaire, in part, because of noise pollution, a judicial precedent.
Then there's the matter of climate change. This May 2013, the planet has reached a most undesirable level of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, 400 parts per million, heading us into greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather situations and accelerated desertification in Africa.  Those who's wakeboats can burn over 60 litres for one hour's use are obviously not too concerned about this.

On smog related emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency noted that marine engines being are "among the highest contributors of hydrocarbons (HC) and oxide of nitrogen (NOx)emissions. HC and NOx emissions contribute to ground-level ozone, which irritates the respiratory system causing chest pain and lung inflammation."

Working on Legislative Solutions
This brings us to the matter as to what we can do about these nuisances.  To begin the current legislative context is as follows.

First, under the Canada Shipping Act, a municipality can submit a request to the federal government for a new regulation concerning safety, the environment and/or a public interest matter but the process is long, up to 5 years, and the existing legislation is not well-adapted to address considerations pertaining to protection of the environment. In effect, in keeping with the Canada Shipping Act encouragement of non-regulatory solutions, a municipality must try a non-regularity social contract with users of the water body concerned for a period of 2 years. Subsequently, only if the municipality claims that after the trial period, it still wants to have a regulatory solution, can the Government of Canada act upon the municipality's request.

Second, up until the legislative revisions by the Conservatives, The Fisheries Act was the key legislation to provide protection for marine life and habitat.  But the new Fisheries Act  regulations stipulate that only commercial, First Nations and recreational fish can be protected -- and this limited protection does not apply to marine habitats.

Against this background, what is required is an overhaul of both of the aforementioned Acts that includes linking them in such a way so that, environmental degradation attributable to certain types of motorized boats, could be used as a basis for imposing effective and binding restrictions on the boats concerned within a reasonable time frame.

That said, with the Conservatives in power until 2015, the overhaul of the two Acts would have to come after the next federal election 2015.  This means that those who want to see legislative changes of the type described here, would operate with a time line to the effect that their innovative proposals for legislative changes would be finalized by 2015.

To achieve these goals, it is clear that, if each small Laurentian community acts on its own,  it would be difficult for any given community to have the attention it wants for its proposals. 

However, since the legislative context is Canada-wide, a more effective approach would be that of establishing inter-municipal alliances across the Laurentians, Quebec and/or with other provinces.  This group approach could be enhanced by including supportive stakeholders such as the Conseil regional de l'environnement, MRCs/regional municipalities, elected representatives of both the federal and provincial governments and others interested in backing a multi-stakeholder approach.  

This multi-stakeholder approach would ensure that their recommendations on legislative changes would get the attention it deserves. Equally important it makes good sense for communities to be open to a cross fertilization of ideas and expertise among communities and stakeholders, given the common legislative challenges and goals.

Accordingly, I invite you to write to me at to share your thoughts or get information on other communities interested in an inter-municipal multi-stakeholder approach to addressing the matter of wakeboats, the "Hummers" on or lakes.

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