WILSON, NY - Boaters heading out on Lake Ontario may notice more law enforcement patrols, who are there to enforce new speed limits aimed at reducing shoreline erosion.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday he is sending out more than 20 boats and 42 officers from several state agencies, who will join local law agencies to enforce the no wake zone, which has now been extended from its normal 100’, to 600’ from shore.
Boaters are reminded that if those violating the 5 mph speed limit within the “no wake” zone could face a $250 fine.
Lake Ontario has experienced abnormally high water levels for most of 2017, after new regulations governing its height were put into place by the international Joint Commission, and an unusually rainy spring which followed affecting the entire Great Lakes Basin, which eventually drains into the lake.
After flooded docks and launch sites prevented lake access for many boaters during the normally heavy attended Memorial Day weekend, one might have thought the Fourth of July holiday would have seen an armada of boaters launching to catch up on lost opportunity.
Unfortunately for them, the conditions which prevented them from getting out earlier still persist.
“It would have been a much busier weekend than it is right now,” confirmed Lt. Ronald Steen of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division.
For the most part, Steen says boaters have been mindful of the new restrictions.
“You’ve got many boaters out there that realize that there is an issue," Steen said.
Steen spoke with WGRZ-TV from where the Sheriff’s patrol boat normally docks, but no longer can, because the dock remains under water. It is now docked, for the time being, a short distance away at a floating dock.
According to Steen, even the novice boater should easily understand how slow they have to go in order not to throw up a wake.
“You’ve got to use your judgment as to how much of a wake you are putting up, and even if you are not sure of that, you just have to slow down,” Steen said.
The additional measures to assist in preventing shoreline erosion, even if – according to Steen -- they produce even minimal results, are welcome news to Gary Kenline.
Kenline and his wife reside on Sunset Island in Wilson Harbor.
“It’s definitely needed,” said Kenline. The erosion is just incredible. The water is still 30 inches above normal, so any wake is just gonna wash in and do damage," he said.
To the east of Wilson, in Olcott, the presence of many of the agencies Cuomo ordered to lakeshore duty could be seen on Monday.
There were boats in the harbor from the NY State Naval Militia, and the Department of Environmental Conservation, which joined the NYS Police, U.S. Coast Guard and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office in the patrol effort.
However, according to Steen, the agencies have yet to fully coordinate their efforts in order to most efficiently patrol the expanse of lake shore areas subject to the no wake zone.
“No, there hasn’t been any coordination as of yet,” confirmed Steen. “However, at this point, this effort is very much in its infancy. And though we have not had any coordination yet, I am sure there will be some down the road.”
They have time.
The high water levels causing the shoreline erosion issues are expected to remain for most, if not all, of the summer of 2017.