Officials urge boating safety over weekend | NevadaAppeal.com

Officials urge boating safety over weekend

Dylan Silver
Nevada Appeal News Service
Nevada Appeal File PhotoHundreds of boats are expected to be out on Lake Tahoe this weekend for the Fourth of July. Officials from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard are urging boaters to take extra caution.
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The Fourth of July weekend is the busiest time for boating in Lake Tahoe.

The Tahoe Resources Conservation District is expecting 1,500-2,000 boats to come through its five inspection points throughout the weekend, said spokeswoman Jonelle Bright.

The majority of boats come from California and Nevada, but some come from as far away as Alaska. Boats that arrive clean, drained and dry will expedite wait times, she said.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is recommending the following safe boating tips.

• Just as people shouldn’t drink and drive a motor vehicle, they shouldn’t drink and operate a boat or other watercraft.

• Stay a safe distance from the other boats and watercraft around you. Think about the distance and reaction time of the vessel you are in, and how long it would take to change course or stop the vessel before colliding with a swimmer or another vessel.

• Read and be familiar with Nevada Boating Laws available online at the Nevada Department of Wildlife boating section at: http://www.ndow.org/boat/

The Department of Boating and Waterways also has a website with safe boating tips: http://www.boatsmarter.com.

Sometimes on the Fourth of July, there’s so many boats bobbing on Lake Tahoe, the lights of the South Shore seem to extend way out into the water. Marvelous as the sight may be, with the high number of boaters comes a higher risk of accidents.

“The waters all around California are crowded on the Fourth of July,” said Gloria Sandoval, spokeswoman for the Department of Boating and Waterways. “Typically, more accidents do happen.”

Officials from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard are urging boaters to take extra caution this weekend.

The SLTPD is expecting hundreds of boats in the water, said boating safety officer David Gottlieb. The department will begin patrolling the South Shore with their two boats Friday. On July 4, they’ll be out from afternoon until midnight.

Officers will be on the watch particularly for boating under the influence as well as navigational violations like speeding in buoy and swimming zones, Gottlieb said. They will also be leading boats back to launches after the fireworks end Monday night.

“We will have a lot of boats in the water, watching the fireworks,” Gottlieb said. “Getting them back to where they’re supposed to be is always a challenge.”

Last weekend, the California Department of Boating and Waterways launched “Operation Dry Water,” part of a nationwide effort to enforce boating under the influence laws. Operation Dry Water put thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water the weekend before Fourth of July weekend to give BUI enforcement high visibility, according to a press release put out by the DBW. But more than just operating a boat while drinking, the department is warning against even boarding a boat and drinking.

“It is important for boat operators and passengers to understand that designating a driver is not enough on vessels,” stated DBW acting director Lucia Becerra in the release. “The concept works well in cars, but drunken passengers on boats can easily fall overboard, swim near the propeller or cause loading problems by leaning over the side or standing up in small vessels, causing vessels to capsize.”

Around 22 percent of boating accidents in 2010 happened in July, according to a report by the DBW. The most common type of accident was collision with another vessel. The most common cause of accidents was the driver’s inattention followed by excessive speed, the report states. The most common offense over Fourth of July is reckless or careless behavior, said Sgt. Jim Halsey of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

“It’s mostly from jet-ski operators,” Halsey wrote in an e-mail. “A lot of jet-ski operators speed and/or don’t pay attention to what other boats and watercraft are doing around them.”

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will have one boat on Lake Tahoe with officers on the lookout for reckless operation and operation while intoxicated.

“We’re not just out there for enforcement only,” Halsey said. “We are also out there for emergency assistance to boaters/watercraft operators who may need help.”