Lake Minnetonka's new wake restrictions go into effect next year

A boat cruising on Lake Minnetonka. (Melissa Turtinen/FOX 9 / FOX 9)

A new speed rule is coming to Lake Minnetonka next year. 

The Lake Minnetonka Conservation District (LMCD) earlier this month changed the rule for speeds near the shoreline, requiring all boats to maintain a speed of 5 mph or less within 300 feet of the shore. The speed rule is expanded from the current 150-foot distance. The lake already had a 300-foot rule in place for boats making repetitive passes near the shoreline. 

This new rule goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. 

The goal of the rule is to limit large wakes near the shore, which the LMCD says will help improve safety for smaller boats, as well as kayaks and paddleboarders, and help protect the shoreline from erosion. 

"Many community members have voiced concerns about large wakes on Lake Minnetonka. At the same time, we know people enjoy using many different types of boats, including wake surf boats and large cruisers," said LMCD Board Chair Gregg Thomas. "This rule change is one step that will help us protect the lake and make it safer for everyone."

This rule change has been a controversial one. 

Jeremy Wahlberg of River Valley Power and Sport told FOX 9 earlier this summer he believes there are already enough rules in place — they just need to be enforced,

While some believe this new rule doesn't go far enough. 

Proponents of the stricter rules point to the University of Minnesota St. Anthony Falls study which found wake surf boats require at least 500 feet of distance from shorelines and other boats to reduce their impact. John Bendt, who has lived on Lake Minnetonka for nearly four decades and has seen firsthand the toll wake boats have taken on his shoreline, started the nonprofit Citizens for Sharing Lake Minnetonka. He says while he supports the proposed change to wake restrictions, he thinks it needs to go further to a 700-foot buffer.

"It doesn't go far enough. We view it as an interim move. It doesn't recognize the high energy and power contained in the wake surf boat waves," Bendt told FOX 9 this summer.

The LMCD conducted a review process prior to approving this new rule, including a public comment period. The LMCD notes the tulle won't impact the current speed limit near docks, anchored boats, swimmers, or scuba divers' warning flags throughout the lake, which remains at 150 feet.  

The LMCD is a coordinating body that regulates Lake Minnetonka. It brings together 14 cities, two counties, and other agencies to care for the lake.