Austin considers expanding no wake zones near public boat ramps

A City of Austin proposal is making waves with the water sports community on Lake Austin.

The city is considering a pilot program that would expand no wake zones around public boat ramps to increase safety.

“Yeah, it's a big issue,” said Spencer Dellere, a contracted boat captain who frequently picks up cutomers on Lake Austin. 

Wake boats zipping past the Pennybacker Bridge are rocking the boat for many captains picking up and dropping off passengers at the boat ramp. 

“It's not a safe environment to unload and load people up on the boats out here,” Dellere said.  

A no wake zone currently surrounds the immediate area in front of the public boat ramp, but does not extend across the river. The City of Austin pilot program would change that. 

“It's good because of the fact that everybody's trying to load their boats in right here and then, all of a sudden, some wake boat will go by and make a four-foot wave and smash everybody into everything,” said Jason Winn, CEO and head captain of Happy Hour Boat Rentals. 

While many boat captains are in favor of the city testing the waters with additional no wake buoys under the bridge, they also feel as though the proposed no wake zone goes a little too far. 

“It's basically going to cover the first half mile of Lake Austin; from the Lake Austin Marina all the way down to Tom Miller Dam," Austin Police Department Lake Patrol Unit senior officer John O'Donnell Jr. said. "And the other area would encompass the 360 bridge where the public boat ramp is there up the lake about a half a mile."

“It's going to make us take about 30 minutes just to get through that no wake zone,” Winn said. 

That's making a splash with boat rental companies who charge by the hour.  

“It's going to kind of make customers a little distraught… People like to get what they pay for,” said Blake Diekmann, a captain with Wake Riderz, a boat rental company on Lake Austin.  

A petition circulating online calls for the city to throw the idea overboard altogether, stating that "placing no wake buoys only limits where activities like surfing, wake boarding, or tubing can happen, which focuses all boats into smaller sections of the lake making it even more dangerous for lake austin goers!" So far more than 1,150 people have signed it.

“There is definitely enough room for everybody to do what they need and want to do, it just might not be where they want to do it, which is right at the bridge,” Diekmann said. 

City Council is still collecting input from the public on the idea. If the no wake zones are expanded, that would be enforced by APD's Lake Patrol Unit.