Article by Jim Davies, vice president of the Heffley Lake Community Association.
The continuing development and popularity of wake boats has resulted in more and more of these types of watercraft impacting interior lakes and rivers. While many groups have expressed concern over the new introduction of waves big enough to free surf on, requests to Transport Canada to regulate these types of watercraft were met with little response: mainly due to no scientific documentation to legitimize the issue. A cohesive effort is required to convince Transport Canada of the need to allow Local Authorities the ability to regulate the operation of wake boats on small interior lakes and rivers.
Wake boat manufacturers continue to develop boats that can create bigger and better shaped waves to free surf on. This is done by installing ballast tanks, trim tabs, and more powerful engines. The shoreline impacts of these waves are evident. Erosion, sediment, wildlife nesting, habitat and property damage from far larger than natural occurring waves.
Independent scientific studies were conducted by Laval University in Quebec and Larratt Consulting in Kalamalka Lake (2019) in B.C. These studies show that the required distance to dissipate wake boat waves is 300 metres. Traditional recreational watercraft are designed to plane quickly and dissipate waves in approx. 30 metres. These studies also looked at the depth of disturbance. Wake boats create disturbance to a depth of 6 – 8 m. Aquatic plant and sediment re-suspension releases phosphorus and toxins from the lake bottom contributing to a reduction in aquatic insects and water quality. Traditional recreational boats create disturbance of 1.5 – 2 m depth. Most salmon bearing rivers are 6 m or less in depth and less than 600 m wide. The impact on fry and spawning is a concern.
There are fortunately many larger Interior lakes where wake boats can be safely and environmentally operated on. Present Transport Canada Boating Regulations would require a restriction on all types of powered watercraft in order to restrict wake boats. This blanket restriction would restrict traditional users from their recreational opportunities and affecting property values.
There is an extensive process using the Local Authorities Guide in order to apply for a Boating Restriction. Consultation with Indigenous Peoples, business, public, and property owners is required. This process insures that any lake where wake boats can be operated on without negatively impacting the environment and the safety and enjoyment of all other lake users would not be restricted. Interior lakes are the nesting sites of 1.5 million ducks and loons (Ducks Unlimited).
The Heffley Lake Community Association (HLCA) has established a point of contact with the Provincial Boating Safety Officer to receive requests for Transport Canada to change the present regulation and to permit Local Authorities to apply for a specific Ballasted Wake boat restriction, without restricting other types of powered watercraft. If you would like to get in touch with the HLCA regarding this, please contact us here and we will direct your enquiry to them.