Annette Meeks' commentary about wake boats is titled "Don't make Minnesota the land of countless lakes ... but no fun" (Opinion Exchange, Sept. 14).
Here are some facts about what Meeks' "fun" costs the environment:
A wake boat's propeller can extend into the water four feet.
In order to produce waves over three feet high, wake boat sterns sit low in the water. The propeller wash from the powerful motor can damage or uproot vegetation and stir up sediment, impacting the lake bed 16 feet deep. Phosphorus freed from the sediment can fuel algae and bacteria blooms, creating problems ranging from nuisance conditions to fish kills and serious health problems. The disturbed sediments also decrease water clarity, making it less attractive, and limiting the depth sunlight can penetrate to sustain plant growth.
Massive wakes can affect loons, fish and other wildlife.
Loons build their nests in vegetation like cattails, right on the edge of the water in calm areas. The eggs are just inches above the water. The chicks don't hatch until June or early July. Large wakes can destroy the nest and wash the eggs into the water.
In addition, the murky water created by disturbed sediments disrupts the ability of loons, otters and many fish to spot their prey.
Many fish have "nests" in shallow water.
Large wakes and disturbed sediment can destroy the eggs. Increased turbidity from sediment reduces the ability of fish to take in oxygen from the water. Small fish need vegetation to hide from bigger fish. If vegetation is lost there will be fewer small fish, and with fewer small fish to eat there will be fewer big game fish.
What about invasive species?
When surfing, the boats carry up to 5,500 pounds of lake water as ballast. A study showed that even after emptying the ballast and running the pumps dry, there was still an average of over eight gallons of lake water in the ballast compartments. Invasive plants and organisms can survive many days in that volume, then be released in the next lake. Areas of lake bed where native plants have been destroyed by propeller wash or large wakes are susceptible to invasive plants.
This is different from water skiing or Jet Skis.
Water skiers want minimal wake, so ski boats are designed to ride efficiently "on plane," skimming along the water's surface, rather than plowing through it. A ski boat's wake is much smaller despite going more than twice as fast.
Then there's the noise.
The grinding sound of a wake boat at "transition speed" of 10 mph doesn't just generate a large wake: it generates a loud, continual noise. Whatever happened to going to the cabin for peace and quiet? What rights do other cabin owners have to experience the call of a loon? What loon call could compete with the sound of a wake boat?
Your right to "fun" ends with others' rights to lakes that are healthy, wildlife that flourish and the Northwoods experience cabin owners enjoy.
Sandy Wolfe Wood lives in Stillwater.