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New rules enacted for using lakes

With the cold, windy, rainy, snowy weather in recent weeks, it may seem like summer is never going to arrive.

But when it does, residents who live on any of Douglas County's 300-plus lakes should make sure they're following the rules.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office (DCSO) recently put together a set of guidelines for putting temporary structures - rafts, trampolines, ski courses, ice hockey rinks - on area lakes.

The temporary structure guide, crafted by the water patrol unit of the DCSO, under the direction of Water Patrol Supervisor Greg Windhurst, can either be obtained at the sheriff's office or online.

According to Windhurst, bodies of water in Douglas County are the responsibility of the sheriff's office.

"And now, there is a written policy for temporary structures," he said. "There are a lot more people on the water and everyone should have equal access to the lakes."

In addition, Windhurst said that the sheriff's office and water patrol unit want to keep the lakes safe and don't want anyone to get hurt when they are using them.

With the new guidelines, Windhurst said, anything (excluding docks and boatlifts) placed in public water needs to have a permit.

In addition, there are rules and regulations for the different types of structure that can be placed in the water.

For example, a swim raft must be placed within 100 feet of shore and cannot be a navigational hazard to the general boating public.

Another example is that private swim areas must be no more than 50 feet along the lake frontage.

And water ski, wakeboard or Jet Ski courses are allowed to be placed in public waters when the owner is actively using the course. "Actively using" is defined as having skied the course within that past two hours.

Another rule for courses is that the overall length may not exceed 900 feet.

All rules and regulations can be found in the Temporary Structure Guide, available online or at the Law Enforcement Center.

As of January 1, 2009, all permits on temporary structures have expired, which means that new permits are now needed, said Windhurst.

The permits, which are free of charge, are good for three years in most cases. Permits are now needed for the following:

•Swim and/or dive raft and water trampolines. The permit is valid for three calendar years.

•Private swim areas. The permit is valid for three calendar years.

•Mooring buoys. The permit is valid for three calendar years.

•Water ski, wakeboard or Jet Ski courses. These permits are valid for one boating season. Windhurst said before a permit will be issued for a course, the course would be inspected to make sure there are no problems.

•Ice or hockey rinks with sideboards. The permit is valid for the winter season it is issued in.

Permits can either be obtained by stopping at the Law Enforcement Center, 216 7th Avenue West in Alexandria or by visiting the DCSO's Web site at Then, click on the Water Patrol icon on the lower left side of the page. Scroll down the page until you find the Temporary Structure Permits section and then click on the highlighted Temporary Structure Permit Packet icon.

Windhurst said homeowners can print out the permit, fill it out with all the necessary information and either mail it in or drop it off at the Law Enforcement Center.

He also noted that permits are needed for anyone or any organization hosting an event on any Douglas County lake. There is a fee for this type of permit, which is $10. Permits can be obtained online or at the Law Enforcement Center.

For more information, send an e-mail to the Water Patrol Unit at