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DNR wardens join local boat patrols for July 4 weekend

Boaters and paddlers enjoying Wisconsin’s waters during the July 4 weekend will see more state conservation wardens and local boat patrols spreading education and enforcing the state’s safe boating laws as part of the annual national Operation Dry Water.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Bureau of Law Enforcement will join local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators to help keep Wisconsin’s water safe this holiday weekend.

Launched in 2009, Operation Dry Water is an awareness and enforcement campaign to educate boaters about the dangers of boating under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Held annually during the July 4 holiday, the campaign is not limited to these few days.

“Alcohol use continues to be a leading known contributing factor in recreational boater deaths and a leading contributor in boating accidents,” said captain April Dombrowski, of the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement Recreation Safety and Outdoor Skills Section. “The mission of Operation Dry Water is a year-round theme to keep all waters safe for all enjoying being on Wisconsin’s many waters. This also means avoiding alcohol or other drug use prior to and while boating.”

A boat operator or passenger with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more likely and deadlier for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or go overboard.

Boaters should take a boating safety education course before getting on the water and everyone on board should always wear a life jacket while near or on the water.

“We want all boaters to enjoy their time on the water in a way that allows everyone to return home safely,” Dombrowski said.

Outreach partners and volunteers will be out on the water and at marinas during Operation Dry Water, working collaboratively with law enforcement to educate boaters about safe boating practices. Law enforcement also will be detecting and removing impaired operators from the water.

In 2019, Wisconsin DNR officers contacted 2,410 vessels, 6,801 boaters, issued 202 boating citations and removed 25 impaired boaters from the water. For the 2019 calendar year, 254 citations were issued for alcohol violations statewide. In 2019, there were 82 reportable boat incidents, 50 people injured and nine fatalities.

Boaters can learn more about boating under the infl uence by visiting Operation Dry Water is coordinated nationally by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.