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HB 5401 Looks to Give Local Municipalities Ability to Declare No Wake Areas Without Input of State

Tuesday, February 4, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Chris Lessway

Today in Lansing, MBIA’s legal counsel Jim Stewart and Board Director Pete Beauregard were prepared to testify against HB 5401 sponsored by Rep. Gary Eisen, District 81, which is designed to give local municipalities the ability to declare restricted no wake areas without the input of the State. The Bill was pulled from Committee but is likely to appear again next week. “We have serious concerns with HB 5401 as written,” said MBIA Executive Director Nicki Polan. “It is far too broad and if passed will cause major unforeseen consequences along with a lot of confusion.”

This HB 5401 will allow local municipalities to limit speeds on lakes whenever a complaint is received from property owners without having the state do its analysis as to whether it is required under MCL 324.80108-80113. Additionally, the bill leaves “High Water conditions” undefined, which means it could be different in every municipality. It does not specify that the no wake zone must apply to all vessels, which could allow municipalities to unfairly target certain boat types. This bill has no limits on re-issues, or sunset provision which means a temporary restriction could become a permanent provision without the analysis of the State. The bill calls for posting the temporary restriction notices on a website. “How would we communicate to 4 million boaters which websites to review and how often,” said Polan. “This would leave boaters unfairly exposed to ridiculously high violation fines.”

The MBIA is concerned for local businesses and jobs which could also be affected by this bill. “We fully understand that highwater is a problem in some areas in Michigan,  but what we need to remember is there are already laws on the books which state that everyone is responsible for their own wake and our lakes are patrolled by State and County marine law enforcement on a regular basis,” said Director Pete Beauregard of Colony Marine. “If left unchecked we could see no wake areas from St. Clair Shores to Lake Huron, which will stop boaters from traveling to this area – which means restaurants, marinas, fuel stations will all suffer.”

Today, MBIA met with the DNR to express the following concerns and more:

1.     Lead to extreme inconsistencies between municipalities causing confusion and exorbitant fines for those who are operating on the water.

2.     Lead to potential abuse by municipalities to set up traps to over-ticket boaters who are not aware of constantly changing or poorly communicated restrictions.

3.     This bill could delay of boat sales and decreased boating activity resulting in damage to an industry and related industries, which are very important to our state’s economy, tourism, and citizens.

High and low water conditions are not new to Michigan and those living on the lakes have seen them again and again as they normally cycle through Michigan’s waterways. ”The DNR and MBIA work diligently to educate boaters across the state to watch their wake with the goal of avoiding new laws like this which are created in a reactionary manner,” said MBIA attorney Jim Stewart. “We are committed to help the municipalities join in on this education to help bring the issue to light at the local level as well.”

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