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No-wake zones, which could reduce erosion, are under consideration in Douglas County

Brothers Larry and Jerry Hines have had a cabin on the south side of Lake L'Homme Dieu for 24 years and said they've never seen the lake this high. The Hines and neighbors were sandbagging their shorelines earlier this week.1 / 2
This lake home on Victoria is an island all its own. It's near the channel that connects Lake Victoria to Lake Jessie.2 / 2

The luxury of lakeside living is quickly becoming a burden.

Extraordinarily wet weather has led to high lake levels and the excess water is swallowing up docks and flooding out shorelines.

Dave Rush, director of Douglas County Land and Resource Management, said, "Many lakes are hitting all-time high water levels."

Both Oscar and Maple lakes have exceeded all-time high lake levels. Lake Victoria is about 1.5 feet above the ordinary high water level (OHWL).

"It's amazing when you look at the water levels," Rush said, "and this isn't going to change anytime soon."

The Chain of Lakes has become the collection pool where much of the area's water flows.

There are four watersheds in Douglas County - the Pomme de Terre, Chippewa River, Sauk River, and Long Prairie River.

Lakes in the Chippewa and Sauk Watersheds flow to the southeast or southwest.

Lakes in the Long Prairie River Watershed, like Irene, Miltona, Ida, Lobster, Mary and Burgen, drain out through the northeast end of Lake Carlos.

Rush said all that water flows to Lake Carlos, through a small dam, where the Long Prairie River begins.

"The whole area is getting hit with rain and it all has to go out at one point," Rush said.


zones proposed

A soggy beach is one thing, but the real problem that has sprung from the rising lakes is the wave action lapping over shorelines and eroding lakefront property.

Over the last two weeks, Rush said he's been inundated with phone calls and e-mails from lakeshore owners who want no-wake zones on their lakes.

During next Tuesday's Douglas County Board meeting, Rush will propose that the county board place temporary special controls on 15 area lakes, meaning no-wake zones within 300 feet of shorelines - about the length of a football field.

The proposed list of lakes includes: Burgen, Geneva, Victoria, L'Homme Dieu, Carlos, Darling, Brophy, Cowdry, Latoka, Mary, Andrew, Maple, Mill, Oscar, Red Rock and Jessie.

The Department of Natural Resources permits counties to temporarily zone water surfaces in emergency situations like this, Rush said.

The no-wake zone would be lifted at the end of the calendar year, or when a lake's water level drops a half-foot below the OHWL for more than five consecutive days.

"There are enough problems out there with the wind creating waves on the lake, probably more than boat traffic," Rush said, "but, the wind we can't control; boat travel we can control."

The wake restrictions will be enforced by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office Water Patrol and DNR conservation officers. Penalties range from a warning to misdemeanor citation.

"This is mostly a wake-up call for people. We want people to be aware and courteous," Rush said.

The restriction doesn't mean people can't head out on the lakes and do some waterskiing or zip around in their boat. Just limit the cruising close to shore, Rush said.

"We hope it helps, but we know it's not going to solve all the problems," Rush said.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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