The Smith Mountain Lake Water Safety Council is continuing to work with the Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission to gather input from the public on the growing concern of boat wakes.
Since 2017, TLAC has collected reports of injuries or damage caused by wakes from various boating activities. Damage or injuries caused by boat wakes can be reported by completing a form on TLAC’s website.
During the SML Water Safety Council’s monthly meeting Aug. 7, member Randy Stow said few people are reporting incidents despite TLAC and SMLA receiving multiple calls concerning wakes. He said callers are directed to fill out the report but, so far, many have not followed through.
Stow said the goal of the reports is to provide hard data on the wake issue. That data could eventually be provided to state legislators to make a case for additional laws such as increasing the current 50-foot requirement that boats be at idle speed within 50 feet of swimmers, docks or other boats.
“It always helps to have data on why this is necessary,” Stow said. “It gets it out of the realm of opinion.”
The form asks for specific information, including the date, time, location, type of boating activity, as well as if there were injuries or property damage.
So far, 57 boating incident reports have been received since the form was first made available in August 2017. Paula Shoffner, TLAC’s executive director, said there have only been five reports received this year.
Reports received have included damage to boats, docks, property on docks and shoreline erosion, Shoffner said, as well as personal injury or personal endangerment.
“This alone proves that these are not just nuisance reports, but are truly incident reports,” Shoffner said. “The boating activity reported most is that of wakesurfing, with wakeboarding being a close second. Almost every report we have received gives various examples of wake activity within 50 feet of docks and swimmers, which is against boating regulations.”
The Water Safety Council is working to educate boaters about the dangers of large boat wakes. The group placed banners at several marinas earlier this year urging boaters to watch their wakes. The issue also was discussed at the SMLA’s annual town hall meeting Aug. 1.
If the education provided proves unsuccessful, Stow said the incident reports could be useful in pushing for legislation.
An incident form can be completed at sml.us.com or by calling TLAC at 721-4400 or the Smith Mountain Lake Association at 719-0690.