By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

Houston County commissioners convened a public hearing in La Crescent on Tuesday, April 19. 

The subject was a proposal to enact a no-wake zone on a portion of the Mississippi River from the West Channel bridge near Sportsman’s Boat Landing (on highway 14/61) upstream to the main channel entrance, an area which abuts river miles 698 and 699. 

Thirteen persons spoke at the hearing, strongly favoring an ordinance to require boaters to slow down in the West Channel backwater area. All but one of the speakers also said they lived on the City of La Crescent’s Shore Acres Road, and cited safety concerns as well as property damage to docks and boats, bank erosion, and noise from boaters who currently transit the area at high speeds. 

Just one speaker said he favored some other type of solution to those problems, such as trying to get the City of La Crosse to ease no wake restrictions on portions of its river frontage during bass tournaments. Those events in particular drew numerous comments from La Crescent residents during the one-hour hearing.

The proposed ordinance would require all boaters to travel at a speed no higher than five miles per hour in the no wake area. One of the speakers in favor of the ordinance said that he had traversed the proposed no wake zone at about that speed, and timed the trip at approximately four minutes.

The Houston County board is expected to vote on sending an application to enact the no wake ordinance to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on April 26. If that document is approved, commissioners would be free to enact the ordinance. 

However, Houston County sheriff Mark Inglett told attendees at the public hearing that a joint powers agreement with La Crosse County, and possibly the City of La Crosse might also be needed to enforce the ordinance. 

Houston County river patrols are also somewhat limited, and primarily funded through grants, he added. The patrols are mostly focused on the busy Brownsville area of the Mississippi River.

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