CLEAR LAKE | The longest dock in Clear Lake could be significantly shortened if a contract waiver between its late owner and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is discontinued.
And Tim Entner, son of the Sunset Bay Marina's late owner Dale Entner, said the consequences could be severe.
"It's not a good situation for the city of Clear Lake," he said.
Entner said he met with DNR officials last Thursday, who told him the dock could be trimmed from its current length of 496 feet to less than 300. He added the agency is looking at only allowing three boat lifts to operate at Sunset Bay Marina, which could mean up to 70 boats could lose their spot.
Two businesses currently operate on the Clear Lake State Park marina: Lake Time Boat Club and Bob's Marine Services.
Jake Kopriva, owner of Lake Time Boat Club, said the loss of slip spaces for boats is compounded by the city's long wait list for public docks to open -- about 300 people, in addition to at least another 200 countywide.
He added the lake's popularity in the summertime means the possible loss of the dock would hurt tourism and other activities Clear Lake residents enjoy.
"We have the demand, but the supply is not there," he said of the boat slip shortage.
Jake's father, Bob, owns Bob's Marine Services. Bob said his business would be less impacted since his focuses on renting boat hoists to customers, and Lake Time Boat Club focuses on full boat rentals and similar services.
Along with the loss of boat slips hurting the local economy, the Sunset Bay Marina is a hot spot for boats to anchor and lakegoers to swim in, Bob said. The length of the dock provides safety for those people by forcing boats to slow down when they approach, he added.
"It has become a location in our lake that people like to swim and float around," Bob said. "It does create a barrier and protected area."
If the dock is shortened, the result could be fatal, Entner added.
"The biggest concern that worries me is ... if you see that state park in the summer, it's always busy," he said. "There are hundreds of boats anchored there ... somebody is going to be hurt or killed."
Currently, Clear Lake's DNR office is in the process of acting on a contract Dale Entner signed with the agency, Tim said. It is "iron-clad," and doesn't allow ownership of the dock to move between family members, he added.
In any case, demand is there for its use, he said.
"The demand for boat lifts is there," Entner said. "I was getting many calls after July 4 ... and I'm getting calls for next summer."
Randy Schnoebelen, a DNR district supervisor whose jurisdiction includes Clear Lake, said regulations concerning private docks changed in 2008 when residents statewide complained about dock sprawl and other issues due to lengthy docks.
Schnoebelen said a special waiver in Dale Entner's contract with the DNR allowed the dock to remain at its current length of 496 feet. He added that now that Dale has died, whoever buys it from Dale's son, Tim, must follow the current regulations, which would shorten it to a maximum of 300 feet off the shoreline.
Tim Entner and others are worried about the impact such a change could have. As of Tuesday afternoon, Sunset Bay Dock sat at nearly full capacity, with dozens of boats lining both sides of the nearly 500-foot stretch.
And if many of those boats are displaced, it's unclear where they could go. Scott Maulsby, general manager of the nearby Clear Lake Boats Marina, said he typically has 15 to 20 names on a waiting list for his spots. How long those people wait depends on how often people drop off the list, the length of time each boat is there, and other factors, Maulsby added.
"It could be a year, it could be 10 years. It all depends," he said.
Schnoebelen, however, said there are other commercial docks and boat ramps people can use around the lake, and that he has heard from people who think Tim and the dock's new owner should obey the law.
"From the state side, all we're saying is they have to follow the new regulations," he said.
He added it's difficult to gauge the economic impact such a change would have, but said multiple other boat rental services operate off-shore in Clear Lake.
Still, Tim said he is going to continue to fight the possible change. He said a meeting is scheduled for later this month with Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer and local officials who want to learn more about the current situation. Attempts to reach Upmeyer for comment via phone and email were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Clear Lake Mayor Nelson P. Crabb said he didn't know about that meeting, adding the DNR -- a state-run agency -- has jurisdiction over him and city council members on these types of decisions.
No matter what happens, Bob Kopriva said current developments are concerning, given the dock has been a positive aspect for the lake for decades.
"It would be a shame for something that is working and has shown it has been needed to the lake," he said.