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Counties enact no-wake ordinances on Mississippi

A barge passes by Levee Park Thursday morning as the Mississippi River continues to flood onto city streets. Goodhue County Board passed an emergency no-wake restriction stopping motorboats from exceeding 5 miles per hour until the river level drops below 11 feet. (Republican Eagle photo by Michael Brun)

Goodhue County Board met in emergency session Thursday morning to approve a no-wake restriction on the engorged Mississippi River.

The ordinance restricts motorboats on the Goodhue County portions of the river and connecting channels from exceeding “slow-minimum wake speed,” defined as less than planing speed and no greater than 5 miles per hour. A violation of the ordinance will result in a misdemeanor penalty.

Pierce County, which shares joint jurisdiction of the river, enacted a similar ordinance on waters between Prescott and Maiden Rock, according to a news release June 24 from Sheriff Nancy Hove.

Both ordinances will remain in place until the river level at Red Wing drops below 11 feet. The river reached 14.62 feet Friday afternoon and is forecasted to near 15 feet this weekend.

“Hopefully, if we’re to get no more rain, I would expect that within a week or two this would start moving back the other direction,” Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Commander Kris Johnson told commissioners Thursday.

The Goodhue County restriction is in place between miles 773 and 807 of the river, stretching roughly from Lake City to past U.S. Lock & Dam No. 3.

Motorboats used by government agencies and rescue craft on official business are exempt from the speed restriction, according to the ordinance. Commercial barge traffic also will be unaffected.


The ordinance came at the request of the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office, which had received calls from property owners along the Mississippi River concerned about wake damage.

Waves caused by wind and boats can cause shoreline erosion and damage levees and other structures, particularly during high-water periods, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Speed restrictions reduce damaging waves and protect boaters from flood-related hazards.

Minnesota statue allows the county chairman to approve a three-day emergency ordinance with the option for County Board to extend it, County Attorney Steve Betcher said Thursday.

The DNR will need to ratify the no-wake restriction, but Betcher said the department has announced that it is aware of the problems caused by high water and will act “expeditiously” to ratify local government actions.

Johnson said the Sheriff’s office will alert boaters through social media when the ordinance is lifted.

“This doesn’t stop anyone from using the river,” Betcher said. “It just says go slow and don’t do damage while you’re out there looking.”

Flood watch

The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for U.S. Lock & Dam No. 3 and the city of Red Wing through July 4.

The Mississippi River was at 682 at 11 a.m. Friday at Lock 3; flood stage is 680.5. The lock may end operations at 683 feet.

By Friday afternoon , the river was at 14.62 feet in Red Wing; flood stage is 14 feet. The river may reach 15 feet this weekend.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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