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Bill to restrict wakesurfing at Smith Mountain Lake sinks in House

Bill to restrict wakesurfing at Smith Mountain Lake sinks in House

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A bill to regulate wakesurfing at Smith Mountain Lake wiped out in the House of Delegates this week.

Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, sponsored a bill in response to numerous homeowners surrounding Smith Mountain Lake agitated with wakesurfing boats — which create waves big enough for people to surf without the need of a tow rope — zooming around in the coves. The bill prompted passionate feedback from wakesurfers and homeowners, who are divided on the issue.

Wakesurfing has been an increasingly popular water sport at the lake. Homeowners said the wakesurfers are sending large waves crashing into the shorelines, preventing them from enjoying the water and damaging their docks. Wakesurfers said they’ve largely courteous and aren’t responsible for dock damage.

“This is creating big problems, and as you might imagine, a lot of division,” Byron said.

Byron’s bill would have kept wakesurfing 200 feet from the shoreline. She was going to try and change it to 150 feet from the shoreline as a compromise.

While mostly homeowners supportive of regulations spoke during committee meetings, most of the more than 60 submitted written comments came from people opposed to the proposal.

“This bill is an overreaction to a few boaters who would best be handled individually through local enforcement for unsafe boating,” wrote one lake homeowner. “Denying recreation for 99% of the boaters because of the misdeeds of 1% of inconsiderate jerks is overkill and taking away people’s rights of lake enjoyment. This is classic use of a canon to do what a rifle shot could do.”

On Monday, Byron’s bill failed to get enough support from the full House to reach the stage for a final vote, with a push from Democrats to defeat it.

“This issue is not going away,” Byron said.

Byron has been one of the more vocal critics of the Northam administration’s handling of the vaccine rollout. She’s delivered multiple speeches during session, much to the frustration of House Democrats tired of listening to the daily lectures from Republicans.

Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax, complained about the legislature getting involved in the “governance of Smith Mountain Lake.” Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, said the bill didn’t get a “proper discussion” in committees before it arrived to the House floor.

“We had extensive discussion on it, and those people that wanted to sign up and speak to it did,” Byron said. “There’s always going to be some that don’t make the meeting and those that are going to oppose the bill. Not everyone support the bills we pass here.”

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