While some say the waters of the Lake are too rough, causing dangerous conditions at times and damaging docks and shoreline, others formidably defend a less-regulated environment and see no need for additional safety measures on the busy waterway.

After the challenging wakes of the Lake of the Ozarks remained a bone of contention among some lakefront property owners and boaters in the 2017 boating season, State Rep. David Wood is taking another crack at a bill aimed at reducing damage to residential docks and enhancing water safety.

While some say the waters of the Lake are too rough, causing dangerous conditions at times and damaging docks and shoreline, others formidably defend a less-regulated environment and see no need for additional safety measures on the busy waterway.

The Republican legislator from Versailles filed a bill in 2015 that would have created an infraction for plowing -- intentionally creating large wakes in the speed between idling and on-plane -- within 300 feet of a dock, pier, occupied anchored boat or buoyed restricted area. The no-wake distance is currently at 100 feet.

That bill, as well as another on infractions for certain lifejacket violations, failed to gain ground in the legislature.

Wood’s new legislation includes the lifejacket infraction change as well as more significant modifications to the proposed wake measures. House Bill 1591 offers a give-and-take to some extent.

As in the old legislation, it would make violations of RSMo 306.100, Subsections 7 and 8 on certain lifejacket requirements, infractions with a fine of just $25 rather than being a misdemeanor with a fine of $185 and court costs.

The goal, according to Wood, is to encourage tickets for these violations with an aim of just a little pain in the pocketbook to better educate boaters on the importance of having the necessary lifesaving devices on board. Currently, few such tickets are written because the fine is considered so large for the nature of the violation.

The same system would go for boat wake violations under HB 1591.

RSMo 306.125 Subsection 3 states, “Vessels shall not be operated within 100 feet of any dock, pier, occupied anchored boat or buoyed restricted area on any lake at a speed in excess of slow-no wake speed.”

HB 1591 would make this an infraction with a fine of $25. More controversial will likely be the attachment of boat wake penalties to the owner of the vessel rather than the driver of the boat.

Currently, it is difficult for state troopers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol Water Patrol Division to write tickets for these violations even when the vessel is identified and caught on video breaking the law, according to Wood.

That is due to the need to not just identify the boat but also the driver, as that is currently who must receive the ticket. Unlike with a vehicle on a roadway, it is not uncommon for a non-owner to be the operator of a vessel.

Under this legislation, the ticket would be against the boat with the owner responsible whether they were driving or not.

Lastly, HB 1591 would allow for the creation of coves that would be no-wake for certain types of vessels.

A no-wake petition signed by more than 50 percent of the owners of waterfront property located on a cove with its main juncture less than 800 feet from the main channel of a lake submitted to the MSHP Water Patrol Division would become a no-wake cove for Class 2 and 3 vessels and for vessels designed to create wake regardless of size, upon approval by the MSHP division.

Class 2 vessels are 26 to 40 feet in length and Class 3 for 40 feet and over. The other type of vessel described would include what is referred to as wake boats, boats designed to make a wake for activities like wake boarding.

This measure, said Wood, would leave action up to neighborhoods, providing an option to protect within coves which are typically more residential while leaving the main channel wide open.

Operations on the Main Channel or the Gravois or Niangua arms would not be impacted.
Violations of these no-wake coves would also be subject to the infraction penalty of $. The no-wake provisions in HB 1591 are similar to existing no-wake coves now. All boats are covered, however, in the coves of 400 feet or less that apply with signatures of 75 percent of waterfront property owners.

RSMo Section 306.100 lifejacket requirements

7. Every vessel, except those in class A, shall have on board at least one wearable personal flotation device of type I, II or III for each person on board and each person being towed who is not wearing one. Every such vessel shall also have on board at least one type IV throwable personal flotation device.

8. All class A motorboats and all watercraft traveling on the waters of this state shall have on board at least one type I, II, III or IV personal flotation device for each person on board and each person being towed who is not wearing one.