The LMCD has updated its rules to respond to concerns people have about the large wakes created by boats, such as wake surf boats and large cruisers, on Lake Minnetonka. Many community members have expressed concerns about the large wakes created by boats. These wakes make it difficult for people with small watercrafts, including kayaks and canoes, to use the lake safely. Wakes close to shorelines also damage Lake Minnetonka’s environment and contribute to shoreline erosion.
At the same time, we have heard from other community members who believe boats, like wake surf boats, are a great recreational outlet and have a right to be on the lake.
Lake Minnetonka is one of the busiest lakes in our state, and we want to make sure everyone can use it safely. That is why we are committed to balancing competing uses to ensure everyone can enjoy the lake.
According to the USCG 2021 report, the force of wave/wakes is the 7th known primary contributing factor
of accidents associated with 247 accidents, 16 deaths, and 186 injuries. Another statistic indicates, where data was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (44%), kayaks (15%), and pontoons (10%). View the report.
New Rule Starting In 2023
In August 2022, one step the LMCD took was to change its rule regarding watercraft speeds near the shoreline. This new rule places a five-miles-per-hour speed limit on all boats within 300 feet of shorelines. This is an increase from the current 150-foot distance. The 300-foot rule related to repetitive passes for personal watercraft is now incorporated into the new rule for all watercraft. The rule will go into effect starting on January 1, 2023. The current 150-foot distance from docks, anchored boats, swimmers, or scuba diver’s warning flags will not change. View the ordinance amendment.
Before considering this rule change, the LMCD conducted a thorough review process that included hosting a public listening session, reading public comments, gathering data, reviewing research, and connecting with member cities and boating industry leaders. You can learn more about this process on our Boat-Generated Wakes Review page.
A Look at New Buffer Distance on Lake Minnetonka
When the new rule goes into effect in 2023, there will be a five-miles-per-hour speed limit on all boats within 300 feet of shorelines and 150 feet of docks, anchored boats, swimmers, or scuba divers’ warning flags. Here is a look at how this will change the buffer distance on Lake Minnetonka.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the Proposed Rule Change
Why did the LMCD approve this rule change?
Many community members have voiced concerns about the impact boat-generated wakes have on their ability to use Lake Minnetonka safely, as well as their negative impact on the lake’s shoreline, private property, and docks. After listening to community members, gathering data, reviewing research, and discussing the issue with member cities and boating industry leaders, we believe this rule change will help us preserve Lake Minnetonka and help make it safer for everyone.
When will this rule go into effect?
This rule will go into effect starting on January 1, 2023.
What watercraft will the new rule apply to?
This new rule will apply to all watercraft on Lake Minnetonka, including personal watercraft.
Does this new rule prohibit any boats from using Lake Minnetonka?
No. This rule does not limit the type of boats on the water – only the speed any boat can travel close to the shoreline.
Why did you approve a new ordinance instead of stricter law enforcement?
The 150-foot rule has been in existence for many years. Over time, we have seen a change in the types and sizes of watercraft, in addition to the variety of competing uses on Lake Minnetonka. Combined with the high lake use, we believe the current buffer distance of 150 feet is no longer sufficient for Lake Minnetonka. Therefore, increasing the distance to 300 feet will help preserve the lake and keep it safe and enjoyable for everyone. We will continue to depend on law enforcement efforts to enforce the rules and help keep people safe.
Will this new rule negatively impact Lake Minnetonka’s economy?
We have no reason to believe that this rule will hurt the local economy. One of our core objectives as a conservation district is to protect the economy, as well as the environment and vibrancy of Lake Minnetonka.
Will this new rule shut down smaller bays on Lake Minnetonka?
Information and mapping show that a 300-foot rule from the shore will not make a bay unusable.
Why did the board decide to keep the five-miles-per-hour speed limit within 150 feet of docks, anchored boats, swimmers, or scuba divers’ warning flags?
Increasing the distance from 150 feet to 300 feet from anchored rafts or boats could negatively impact some bays if multiple watercrafts are anchored there. Boaters will continue to be responsible for their speeds and wakes to ensure other lake users are not harmed by their actions. We also encourage everyone to pay attention to lake conditions and other uses to promote their own safety.
How will people know the 300-foot and 150-foot distances?
In 2022, we have installed 300-foot and 150-foot distance buoys at the Cook’s Bay public launch at Surfside Park. We encourage everyone to stop by and check their skills. Learn more on our Buoys & Inland Waterway Markers page.
How will you educate the public about the new rule change?
Education is an important factor in lake safety and preservation, and it will be critical to engage many parties to achieve the best results. The LMCD has already received several suggestions, such as expanding current activities as well as pursuing new initiatives. Information and maps will be available on the website, social media, and in brochures. We will evaluate ideas and pursue public education opportunities ahead of the 2023 boating season.
More information About Safety and Boat Generated Wakes on Lake Minnetonka
Research & Legislation
UMN Research Regarding Boat Generated Wakes. The U of M St. Anthony Falls Laboratory conducted the first phase of research about boat wake and propeller wash produced by recreational watercraft. Phase I started Fall of 2020 and the report and information is available. Phase II research is in the planning and implementation process.
Phase I Research
- Study Facts
- Research Brief
- Final Report (February 2022)
- MINNPOST article regarding U of M report (February 2, 2022)
- Sign up for updates at https://sites.google.com/umn.edu/healthywatersinitiative/welcome.
- The process consisted of extensive data analysis, a draft report, peer review, and publishing. For an overview of the research during planning, view the presentation to the LMCD Board on 08/26/2020.
Phase II Research
- Phase 2 Propeller Wash Characterization webpage.
Boater Safety Education Requirement
A bill is introduced in 2021/2022 Legislative Session regarding education and permitting requirement for certain watercraft operators.
A bill was proposed in the previous 2020 legislative session regarding wake boats. If any bill is introduced at the 2022 Minnesota State Legislature about wake type boats, it will be posted here. The LMCD is also monitoring legislation regarding wakes introduced in other states.
- 2021 Legislation
- HF 1606 introduced 02/25/2021 Bill Information Bill text as introduced
- View LMCD Position Statement. LMCD opposes HF 1606 and SF 1639 as currently drafted because this legislation 1) eliminates local control and 2) is premature in light of ongoing research regarding the impact of boat generated wakes.
MN DNR. Wake issues have state-wide impact. The LMCD is monitoring activities by the MN DNR to address this issue.
LMCD Code. LMCD Code regulates all watercraft on Lake Minnetonka. The full LMCD Code can be found HERE. The Summer Rules brochure provides a summary of the regulations. View Brochure. LMCD Code prohibits the operation of any watercraft:
- at a speed which results in more than a minimum wake within 150 feet of swimmers, other boats, or docks (8-2.03 and 9-1.01);
- in a careless manner such that its wash or wake will endanger or unnecessarily interfere with any other person or property (8-2.01); or
- in a manner that exceeds noise limits or otherwise causes a public nuisance. (8-1.13 and 8-2.01).
LMCD Code also specifically regulates personal watercraft:
- precludes operation of a personal watercraft between one hour before sunset and 9:30 a.m. the following day (8-3.05);
- restricts operation of a personal watercraft at a speed which results in more than a minimum wake within 300 feet of the shoreline (8-3.07); and
- precludes operation of a personal watercraft in a single area for more than 30 consecutive minutes and the operator is subject to citation if such operation is liable to be a nuisance to residents (8-3.15).
State & Federal Statistics
The LMCD encourages and supports safety and lake use education for all watercraft operators.
Watercraft Operator’s Permit. Through its Save the Lake Fund, the LMCD partners with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol, MN DNR, Mound Fire Department, and AL & Almas to offer a Boater Safety Education Program which qualifies participants for a MN DNR Watercraft Operator’s Permit (currently required for boat operators 12-17 years old, but recommended for all boaters). Class is scheduled for June 13, 2022. Sign up.
Wake Surfing Education – The LMCD supports education programs developed by the NMMA, professional wake surfers and others to promote safe, responsible, and fun wake surfing operations. These resources are external sites and provided as a courtesy. The LMCD does not maintain these sites or content.
- The Wave Video. https://youtu.be/daa0U56zvwc
- Wake Responsibly. http://wakeresponsibly.com
- Captains Etiquette video. https://vimeo.com/162088944
- Wake Zone Drivers Etiquette video: https://vimeo.com/207361109
- Citizens for Sharing Lake Minnetonka: sharelakeminnetonka.com
Own Your Wake. Boaters are responsible for the wakes they create. Learn about the impact of wakes and ways to protect the environment and people. Learn more
Wake Sports AIS Prevention. Watch this short video to learn how wake sports users, like wake boarders, wake boaters and wake surfers can prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Created by Wildlife Forever in partnership with the Boat US Foundation. Learn more at CleanDrainDry.org. Watch the Clean Drain Dry Video.