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Popular Minocqua/Woodruff Lake Connector May See New Restriction

Town of Minocqua

On a night in which Mother Nature dumped at least two inches of heavy wet snow on Minocqua, its town board was wrestling with a summertime problem.

And like all issues it seems today, it was coronavirus pandemic related.

Woodruff Police Chief Corey Backhaus told the board Tuesday that an increase in boat traffic – fueled by downstate residents seeking respite from the pandemic -- has also increased the number of complaints about boaters ripping through the thoroughfare channel that connects Lake Minocqua with Tomahawk Lake.

Much of the thoroughfare is designated slow, no wake. However, upwards of 500 yards on Minocqua’s side is open to boats planing out at high speeds. On summer weekends, the boat traffic numbers in the hundreds ranging from small fishing boats to large pontoons and even cruisers.

Backhaus asked the Minocqua board to make that portion of the channel lying in Minocqua Township entirely slow, no wake. Board members John Thompson and Bill Stengl pushed back. Instead, a compromise was reached.

In the end, the board agreed to have Backhaus draft an ordinance that would prohibit passing boats going in the same direction. That, conceivably, would slow speedsters when they catch up to a slower moving boat. The proposal will come back to the Minocqua town board with likely review by the town attorney.

If passed, some type of signage would be placed in the channel alerting boaters of the new ordinance.

Lots of traffic, no accidents

In discussion leading up to the compromise, Thompson quipped that the speedsters appear to be, “People with a lot more money than boating experience.” He added, “And so maybe that makes (others) uncomfortable as well (with speeding boats).”

A regular user of the channel himself, Thompson asked Backhaus if he knew of any accidents that have occurred in the channel. The police chief replied that he did not know of any.

Backhaus said personal watercraft users are violating state boat regulations if they go faster than slow, no wake anywhere in that aforementioned stretch. That’s because PWCs cannot operate faster than that within 200 feet of shore. Regular boaters can if they are at least 100 feet out.

Stengl noted his opposition to all slow, no-wake. “But I also recognize the need to probably take a hard look at this based on the amount of traffic that we’re seeing, seven days a week through the channel in the summertime.”

Supervisor Brian Fricke pointed to the growing proliferation of high-powered boats, with some outboards reaching the 400 horsepower threshold. That makes boats even more difficult to control in the relative narrow passageway that has a couple of sharp turns.

But, he wondered, was it wise to have the town’s boat patrol officers spending time in the channel when the greater safety concern is with the heavy traffic passing under the U.S. Highway 51 bridge and the Bearskin Trail trestles?


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