Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Anyone heading out onto the St. Croix River will have to abide by a new rule. The new bridge construction is underway and a no-wake zone is in effect for nearly a mile along the river.
The St. Croix River offers an easy getaway during the summer months. Gail Plewacki of Stillwater takes out her pontoon whenever she can.
“It’s a gorgeous river,” Plewacki said.
This year, she and all boaters are finding new rules along one stretch of the river, just south of the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge.
“I think that the no-wake zone is going to have an impact,” she said.
The new no-wake zone near the bridge construction will stay in place for the next four years. DNR officers, like Greg Salo, will be on the water every day, patrolling the ¾-mile stretch of river.
Law enforcement will be warning boaters about the safety risk of driving too fast near the bridge construction.
Even the smallest wake can have an effect on the barges, putting both the workers’ and the boaters’ safety at risk.
“It may only rock them a few inches at the bottom, but at the top of a 150-foot crane, the movement is pretty severe,” Salo said. “You could have a catastrophic accident.”
The main focus during patrols will be education rather than citation. One reason for the emphasis on education is that the no-wake zone isn’t officially sanctioned through the coast guard or county ordinance.
“We don’t want to write tickets. We don’t like writing tickets,” said Salo.
But boaters shouldn’t view that as a free pass. They could still wind up with a ticket if they don’t follow the rules because there’s another law on the books that says you can’t create a dangerous wake.
“Whenever they have a law, they say, ‘It doesn’t apply here.’ Usually, there’s another law that catches everything. You can still get a ticket for creating a dangerous wake,” he said.
The cost of a no-wake violation is $150.
Salo said DNR officers stop around 8-12 boaters a day. So far, only warnings to slow down have been issued.
There are buoys on the water to alert boaters of where the no-wake area starts and ends.