Gregory Guidry leaves a trail of spray as he waterskis on Mill Lake near Elkhorn. A change in state law now allows boat drivers to pull skiers without a separate spotter in the boat to monitor skiers. (File photo by Richard Guidry)

Advisory board is worried about safety on busy local lake

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

For decades, a state law required spotters on motorboats pulling water skiers on area lakes, but the safety provision changed in March when Gov. Scott Walker authorized an amendment passed by the Wisconsin legislature.

The amendment eliminates the need of the spotter whose sole responsibility is to observe the person water skiing while a driver operates the boat. Instead of a spotter, the new state law allows boaters to use a rearview mirror.

While the Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions supported the change, the Badger State Sheriff’s Association and Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association opposed the proposal, legal documents show.

Local municipalities with inland lakes where water safety patrols perform at least 1,500 hours of enforcement every two years can create their own ordinances to keep the spotter on the boat.

The Browns Lake Advisory Board, which met to discuss the state law on June 2, asked the Burlington Town Board at its June 14 meeting to develop an ordinance maintaining the spotter role.

The ordinance recommended by the advisory board will also apply to wakeboards, aquaplanes, or similar devices, and surfers who are behind the watercraft.

“For the last 50 years, the law worked quite well,” said Kim Deriaz, a Browns Lake Advisory Board member.

Suzanne Deans, another advisory board member, believes the amendment to the state law compromises safety and puts others at risk.

To read the full story and a separate story on the change in the state law, see the June 28 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.