Message from the Mayor…Happy New Year – Safety First Through All The Seasons in Lake Lure

By Carol Pritchett

I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday season.  As you may know, North Carolina has identified 2023 as the “Year of the Trail”!  In Lake Lure, we are fortunate to have a trail nearby for each of us to enjoy.  I want to extend an open invitation to bikers, hikers, riders and paddlers.  We are fortunate to have two major regional events scheduled on the trails.

As the New Year begins, the town will be lowering the lake beginning 1/1/23 to complete several critical infrastructure projects. The 2023 Lake Drawdown Schedule was announced in July 2022 so everyone would know the timeline and could make plans accordingly.  The town normally lowers the lake by about a foot each day.  Full-pond in Lake Lure is 990.5 mean sea level (MSL).  Lake levels will vary during the drawdown between 5 feet and 12 feet below full-pond, depending on the work requirements of contractors. The following is a list of projects the town plans to complete during this year’s lake drawdown:

  1. Beginning of Phase One of the sewer system replacement project. This will include boring pipe sleeves on properties in the Sunset Cove area.    
  2. Lake dredging with excavators
  3. Seawall repair/replacement
  4. Penstock inspection and warrantee repairs
  5. Work on deep water access ramp near the dam

It is anticipated that the lake will begin refilling on 3/31/23. Contractors working on seawall repairs/replacement must be out of the lake by 3/15/23.  The rate of refilling the lake is dependent upon the weather conditions.  Information will be posted on the Town website so that everyone will know the lake levels.

In addition to enhancing Lake Lure’s infrastructure, the town has also strengthened the Lake Use Regulations.  Lake Lure’s Lake Advisory Board conducted a comprehensive review of the regulations in order to assess watercraft technology changes since the 2006 Lake Use Study.  This was needed due to the increased size and power characteristics of new boats and to assess the increased boat pressure on the lake due to property development and recent demographic changes.  It is clear that bigger and faster boats are a great concern to the residents of Lake Lure because of potential damage to lake structures and the impact on boating safety. Boating pressure has significantly increased due to a rise in tourism in Lake Lure.  The marina currently has over 70 people on a waiting list; many new boat houses are under construction; non-developed property is disappearing; and a shift in demographics to younger families together are presenting new technology water sports and more frequent boat use. This increase in lake pressure is particularly magnified on weekends during peak season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

With these issues in mind, the new Lake Use Regulations include the following safety-related changes.

Boater Safety Course and Test: To ensure that all boat operators understand the fundamental safety regulations for Lake Lure’s 720 acre lake, every boat operator – including visitors and residents – no matter how experienced – must complete an online licensing course before operating any motorized boat on Lake Lure. The first line of defense for safety is personal responsibility and this course will serve to inform and promote compliance with the existing regulations.  Evidence of passage of Lake Lure’s Boater Safety Test will be a requirement for all 2023 boat permits.

New Speed Limit: Many citizens have voiced concerns over fast high-powered boats. After a review of water safety studies and regulations imposed on similar lakes, it is generally agreed that boat speeds above 45 mph greatly reduce an operator’s ability to react to an emerging dangerous situation. Also, the wave energy created by boats above that speed is exponentially greater than lower speeds. To increase water safety and reduce potential structure damage, the Lake Advisory Board recommends a safe speed limit of 45 miles per hour (mph) under all conditions. Pontoons or tritoons with a single 300 horsepower (hp.) outboard are generally limited to a max hull speed of about 46 to 48 mph, so watercraft will be limited to a single 300 hp. (or equivalent) outboard to augment this rule. Other engine configurations such as on vehicle boats with inboard engines are too variable to regulate, so the rule will rely on the 45 mph safe speed limit.

Mirror/Competent Observer Requirement for Water Sports: To further promote water safety, the new rules reinforce North Carolina state law that requires a mirror or competent observer for water sports. This requirement will be emphasized in the new training protocol. The new rules codify a previous Marine Commission position that wake surfing is allowed, but surfers must maintain at least a 150 foot separation from shorelines and other boaters. Recreational boaters should provide surfers a wide berth and surfers should suspend activity if unable to maintain safe separation. The prohibition of personal watercraft operated by an individual has been updated to include new technologies such as new innovative designs and electrically driven craft.

“No-wake” Guidelines: To promote compliance of “no-wake” regulations, the new roles clarify “no-wake” as no white water emanating from bow and not to exceed 1,000 revolutions per minute(rpm). Almost all boats have a tachometer and for those that do not, the white water provision will provide a secondary measure.

To help reduce the notable increase in boating pressure on the lake, the new Lake Use Regulations include the following key policy changes:

Permitting Restrictions: To reduce peak season congestion, all annual permits will only be granted to residents, commercial vessels, and non-residents who berthed their boats at a commercial or town slip. Non-residents and visitors who use trailer boats may purchase daily or multi-day permits, it is important to note that the daily rates during the off season will be reduced by 50% in order  to promote an affordable option for lake access. Since daily permits have always been limited to weekdays during the peak season, the policy effectively limits peak season weekend access (the high use periods) to residents, a limited number of renters, and non-residents who berth their boats on the lake.

Permitting Requirements: To help ensure that only authorized boats are legally operated on the lake, all motorized boats will be required to have an active and valid permit. This will facilitate enforcement and eliminate old unserviceable boats from the lake; some of which are barriers to the installation of the new utility infrastructure.

NC Boater Registration: Some residents have been non-compliant with North Carolina state law that requires all boats physically present in North Carolina for a period greater than 90 days to be registered in North Carolina. This law was imposed to ensure boats operated in North Carolina meet State safety standards; are properly insured; and registration revenues go to the North Carolina Lake where the boats are operated. To comply with State law, boats with an out of state registration will be limited to a 90-day Lake Lure permit, but may be transferred to a full annual permit after the registration is shifted to North Carolina – and the town encourages all residents to shift their registration and comply with state law.

To facilitate the installation of utility infrastructure, the Lake Use Regulations include the following policy changes to reflect specific new North Carolina legislation for Lake Lure:

Boat House Access: The new rule emphasizes property owner permission for access to boat houses. This allows access for Town employees or designated representatives to conduct safety inspections and access utilities when coordinated with property owners. It also provides Town authorization to remove impediments (watercraft or other property) in order to gain utility access, remove and reinstall structural stanchions as needed, and issue vacate orders to move boats in the path of utility construction.

These revised Lake Use Regulations will put safety first! As always, your support and cooperation is appreciated as we continue to work together to improve Lake Lure for future generations.

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