Residents living along Newman Lake are taking their concerns about shoreline erosion to the Spokane County commissioners.
Two weeks ago, they asked Commissioner Todd Mielke to help them come up with solutions for stopping the main source of the problem: wake boats specially designed to create big waves for boarders.
Laurie Keaton of the Newman Lake Flood Control Zone District led Mielke on a fact-finding mission.
She pointed to embankments that she said were being undercut by the increased wave action.
“You can see the erosion there,” she said, pointing to one section of shoreline.
“They are losing shoreline all along here,” she said.
Lakefront property owners are losing their beaches and are being forced to install reinforcements, sometimes without permits, she said.
The problem is so bad in some locations that trees and buildings are threatened, she said, showing Mielke those sites.
Boaters are required to observe no-wake zones within 100 feet of no-wake buoy markers, which are placed 100 feet from the shoreline and ring the lake. But many boaters ignore the regulation, Mielke was told.
In recent years, boaters have been using wake boats equipped with a flexible bladder that can be pumped full of water to increase the weight of the boat and prevent it from reaching a plane.
The boats also have a metal plate in the stern that adds drag.
The boats ride at a sharp angle to the surface, pushing a wake out behind them.
The wake is so large that a boarder can surf the wave without holding onto a tow rope, the lakefront owners said.
One homeowner received a grant from the Spokane County Conservation District to pay about half of a $13,000 shoreline protection project.
“Logs” made out of coconut fiber were anchored to the shoreline and small trees, including willows, were planted behind the logs. Plans call for adding a log or dock structure just offshore to protect against the waves.
Newman Lake property owners have earned a reputation for stewardship over the years by financing a milfoil eradication program, installing an aerator to improve oxygen levels in the water and working with upland property owners to prevent erosion and sedimentation.
Short of banning wake boats, the owners said that a 300-foot no-wake zone could be implemented. Making the creation of large wakes illegal is another possibility, they said
The group also suggested increased public education and new protection zones around sensitive areas.
Mielke told the lakefront owners he is skeptical that any new regulations would stop the problem. He asked marine sheriff’s Deputy Pat Bloomer, who joined the Aug. 23 tour, to take a closer look at enforcing existing laws.