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HB 397: Preempting No-Wake Zones — 2020

Summary: This bill would blocking local governments from protecting Idaho's fragile lakes, by establishing a maximum no-wake zone of 200 feet.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Dead

Issue Areas: Clean Water

Official Legislative Site

Update:  According to the sponsor and news reports, HB 397 has been withdrawn and is not expected to advance further this session.


Rep. Jim Addis (R-Coeur d’Alene) introduced a measure that would limit the ability of local governments to establish no-wake zones beyond 200 feet. Most no-wake zones have been established by county commissions to protect docks, sensitive shorelines, riparian habitat and private property.

The proposal flies in the face of scientific evidence from Dr. Frank Wilhelm, a leading limnologist (freshwater scientist) from the University of Idaho, who pointed out that motor boats can cause significant damage to lakes and lake beds. He noted that the advent of “Wake Boats” have the potential to cause even more damage because they are designed to create larger wakes than traditional motorboats.

He pointed out that the individual characteristics of each lake warrant a site-specific review to determine appropriate protections. These characteristics can include size, gradient, type of lake bed, composition of the shoreline and others.

Wake zones should be individually researched to determine the distance appropriate for any given lake, not established at a statewide level.

Currently, no-wake zones are in force on many popular lakes, including Payette Lake, Cascade Reservoir, Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, Priest Lake and others. Recent proposals to expand the no-wake zone on Payette Lake reportedly served as the stimulus for this proposal.

Many Idaho legislators claim to support local control and decry efforts from Boise or Washington, D.C. that limit local decision making authority. All too often actions speak louder than words and this bill follows a similar vein we’ve seen in past sessions: like placing a ban on plastic bags, and limiting local governments from establishing energy codes that go further than the Idaho Energy Efficiency Code.