RICE LAKE - On the heels of telling the Ward County Board of Commissioners that the public boat ramp would be open this year, the Rice Lake Recreational Service District is now reconsidering whether boats from that ramp - or anywhere else on the lake - should be green-lighted this year.
The lake has been rising in recent years, flooding many homes and cabins. Water is currently being pumped out, but effects have not been drastic as of yet.
"We do definitely need a 'no-wake zone,' for the simple fact that the water is just so high," said Linda Anderson, a Rice Lake district board member, at the county commission's regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday morning. "The water is just so high that anything that gets on (the water) with any kind of speed will create more issues."
Several properties at Rice Lake have been inundated by the rising lake.
Sheriff Steve Kukowski said he had conferred with officials from the North Dakota Department of Game & Fish, who said that technically the process of declaring a no-wake zone was never completed in 2011.
Kukowski said that Game & Fish confirmed that the county commission has the authority to close the public ramp, but that the water is regulated by Game & Fish.
In order to enact the no-wake zone, the county commission and the county emergency manager must make the request to Game & Fish, Kukowski said.
Another factor to consider, Kukowski said, is that the sheriff's department does not have a boat, and Game & Fish is shorthanded currently, like most other non-oilfield businesses.
"A jet ski cannot operate without a wake," he said. "They're not a slow-moving craft. It's going to create huge problems for us. And I don't know how many are on board (with a no-wake zone) from Rice Lake - I don't know if 40 percent are on board, or 90 percent."
Kukowski said his recommendation is for the commission to close the public ramp.
Anderson said that the issue of people launching from their private ramps could become a problem as well.
"It's a case of the haves and the have-nots," Kukowski said. "Those who have access and are not flooding want to put their boats in the water. Those who are flooded don't want any further damage."
In fact, Kukowski said, it would be his recommendation to have no boat traffic at all on the lake.
"That's not going to go well," Anderson said. "It is a dilemma, and I understand where you're coming from."
The commission asked Anderson to discuss the issue with the board and come back to the commission in the coming weeks so that a final decision can be made.