Beer on board? Bad idea when it comes to safe and fun boating for all on Wisconsin's thousands of river miles and lakes.
That will be among the messages Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation wardens and local lake patrols will deliver statewide this weekend during the seventh annual national Operation Dry Water campaign.
Wisconsin boaters will be reminded to stay sober, be skilled and get smart during the June 26 - 28 education and enforcement weekend, the yearly safety event dedicated to increasing public awareness about sober boat operation by removing impaired drivers.
Wardens and local authorities stress the goal of the annual outreach is to make sure the waterways are safe for all to have fun. This is why the officers also will be watching for operators whose blood alcohol level is higher than the state limit of 0.08 percent as well as educating boaters about life jackets and safety courses.
"The wardens and the local boat patrols will be working as a team," Boating Law Administrator Roy Zellmer said, adding Wisconsin has 84,000 river miles and 15,000 lakes. Wisconsin closed 2014 with 628,277 registered boats.
Operation Dry Water, a multi-agency, education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide the last weekend in June to give operating while intoxicated education and enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.
The U.S. Coast Guard cites its 2014 data for showing alcohol use as the primary contributing factor to recreational boater deaths. And Zellmer says there are other factors that contribute to boating accidents, such operator inexperience and lack of boating safety education.
In Wisconsin, boaters whose blood alcohol content (BAC) level exceeds the state limit of .08 can expect to be arrested for boating under the influence (BUI). Penalties for BUI include fines, jail, alcohol/drug assessment and completion of a boating safety course. Remember if you are out on the water this weekend: Operation Dry Water patrols will include increased patrols as well as boater education and outreach.
Want to learn more about Operation Dry Water? Just go to this website: http://www.operationdrywater.org/
Visit this website to learn about boating safety classes: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat/
If you have information regarding natural resource violations, please call or text: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay reported information to conservation wardens. Anyone who calls the Violation Hotline or provides information can remain anonymous.