An eastern Ontario township is petitioning the federal government to introduce new temporary rules restricting boaters' wakes along the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Last week, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands passed a motion calling for wakes to be restricted to 15 inches — or approximately 38 centimetres — within 300 metres of the shoreline.
Wakes have been causing significant damage to properties along the seaway this year, as heavy spring rainfall has meant the water level is about 75 centimetres higher than normal, said Jeff Lackie, the councillor who introduced the motion.
Lackie said he's seen wakes damage docks, boats and boathouses. Some local families have also seen water pour into their homes, flooding their living rooms.
Boaters responsible for their wakes
"Far too often I see [boaters] drive by and never look behind them," said Lackie, a lifelong boater who owns a family island near Gananoque, Ont.
"And a rule of thumb, basically, is you are responsible for your wake. It's yours. And I think not enough people are recognizing how much of a wake they're throwing."
Earlier this year, the Township of Frontenac Islands declared a state of emergency due to the high water levels on the St. Lawrence.
The motion calls for Transport Canada to introduce temporary rules that would remain in place until the end of 2017 or until water levels recede — whichever comes first.
As they wait to hear back from the federal government, the township is replacing speed limit signs along the seaway that have slowly disappeared over the years — signs that would give the Ontario Provincial Police "some teeth" in keeping wakes down, Lackie said.
Boaters are supposed to go no faster than 10 kilometres an hour within 30 metres of the shoreline.
Often visitors to the township don't know what restrictions are in place, Lackie added — and they inadvertently cause damage with their boat wakes.
"Locals are afraid to go out, are afraid to do damage. But [on] long weekends, of course, folks from the cities bring their families out and really have no idea what we've been dealing with here," the councillor said.
"They go about their business as if it were a normal year."