Proposed WaterCross Waterski races come before Common Council again

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By Melissa R. Collum

At the January 3, 2023 Prairie du Chien Common Council meeting there was a request on the Consent Agenda to hold the Great Lakes WaterCross Waterski Races on St. Feriole Island Beach from June 23 -25. A motion was made by Alderperson Nate Bremmer and seconded by Jaaren Riebe with a vote of 7-0 to table the discussion until more information could be gathered.

Prior to the motion being tabled, the following discussion ensued by the Council with the request to gather more information regarding the event. There were no representatives from Great Lakes WaterCross nor was a representative from local sponsor Prairie Motor Sports, at the meeting to present their request or to answer questions regarding the event. Mike Ulrich, Prairie du Chien Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Director spoke on their behalf. Ulrich stated that they were expecting at least 100 jet ski racers and between 400-500 people to be in Prairie du Chien for the event. When questioned about where the event would ‘run on the water’ from the boat landing north (upriver) or from the landing south (downriver), Ulrich responded from the boat landing south, in front of and past the riverwalk. The Council raised concerns related to the ‘No Wake’ designation in that area and the damage that may be done to the retaining wall along the Riverwalk, as well as, the shore beyond. Ulrich did not know how far downriver the races would go or where the turnaround would be. Note: the Courier Press in the January 11, 2023 edition previously published this information.

The Council tabled the discussion and permit request until the DNR and Fish and Wildlife could be consulted in regard to the ‘No Wake’ and damage that could be done to the retaining wall and shoreline.  At that time there was no date set to revisit the topic but it has been returned to the Consent Agenda* for the April 18 Common Council meeting.

On March 13, Great Lakes WaterCross, and their local sponsor Prairie Motor Sports, announced that the races would be taking place on the Island, prior to being approved by the Common Council. As of April 7, Ulrich when contacted via email stated he had received no additional paper work regarding the request. Chad Abram, City Administrator, stated via email that as of the April 7, he had not received any paper work and there were no attachments with the Common Council Agenda posted on the City website April 14.

Over the past two months the Courier Press has contacted local and state environmental and regulatory organizations with requests for information regarding the environmental impact on St. Feriole Island, shorelines, the retaining wall, and local wildlife. According to these organizations and their representatives, who wish to remain anonymous, there are multiple concerns related to this event. First, the enforcement of the ‘No Wake Zone’ after the event; the general concern is that boaters and jet ski rides will no longer see the need for the ‘No Wake Zone’ because it was not enforced during the event. The ‘No Wake Zone’ would have to be suspended by the Common Council in order for the event to happen.

Second, parking and use of space on the Island. According to the application by Great Lakes WaterCross all the jet skis will enter the river from the Villa Louis boat landing and they will only be using the Villa Boat landing parking lot and the area to the north. The Villa lot has the following number of vehicle spaces: two handicapped, twenty-nine with trailers, and nine spaces for vehicles without trailers. There was no definition given as to the ‘area to the north’ and what it would be used for on the application.

Third, the wear-and-tear on the shoreline and the retaining wall. Sources contacted expressed concern over the erosion that may occur on the shoreline and the retaining wall. The retaining wall is on the Wisconsin Historic registry as it was completed in1938 as a part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), work program for the unemployed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The sinking of the bricks each year on the corresponding walkway evidences the wear-and-tear on the Wall, over the last 85 years.

The erosion of the shoreline will not only take place on the beachfront, but sources believe that the overflow of jet skis will enter the water via the marina boat landing and travel along the Marais de Staint Feriole (the waterway around the north point of the Island) thus causing shoreline erosion and disturbance to local wildlife.

If you would like to review the original Request for permit application it can be found on the City of Prairie du Chien Web site under Common Council – Agendas and Minutes – 2023-01-03.


* According to Robert’s Rules of Order Consent items are those which usually do not require discussion or explanation prior to board action, are non-controversial and/or similar in content, or are those items which have already been discussed and/or explained and do not require further discussion or explanation. Such agenda items might include ministerial tasks such as, but not limited to, approval of the agenda, approval of previous minutes, approval of bills, approval of reports, etc.



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