Keeping The Water ‘Dry’

Game, Fish and Parks officers are combating boating under the influence

WALL LAKE, S.D. – Drinking alcohol while boating continues to be a dangerous issue statewide. In the last two years, two people have drowned in South Dakota on the 4th of July weekend in incidents involving alcohol. So this year, conservation officers are taking a preventative approach.

Even though Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday this year, many still hit the lake this weekend.

“I love the sound of waves, playing in the water,” says Carol Dethury of Sioux Falls. “We’re enjoying the beach, my grandchildren and I, just enjoying the sunny day and a picnic.”

For those wearing a badge though, the nice weather and big crowds can become concerning.

“We’ve had some issued with people getting killed just by getting struck by another boat or jetski,” says conservation officer Jared Hill.

Hill says he’s seen his fair share of deadly boating-related accidents.

“Most every lake around here, we’ve had drownings.”

He says there are often two common factors that play into drowning. One is alcohol.

“If you’re drinking all day at the lake, it can accumulate pretty quickly,” says Hill. “Dehydration can take affect before you even realize it.”

Hill says it isn’t illegal to drink on a boat.

“But you have to make sure the operator is not impaired,” he says. “It’s the same limit as driving a motor vehicle.”

The other common factor in drownings is not wearing life jackets.

“Wearing them is best,” says Hill. “But on the boat, you at least have to have them accessible so that you can get to them.”

This is why officers like Hill are specifically looking out for these two violations this holiday during their campaign ‘Operation Dry Lake’. But it’s not just those in uniform who are keeping their eyes peeled.

“All the kids are being monitored by parents,” says Alyssa Oswald of Sioux Falls. “So I think it’s pretty safe.”

“There’s so many families out here that nobody wants a drunk boater driving recklessly and maybe killing somebody,” adds Hill.

Conservation officers have adjusted their schedules for the Fourth of July weekend. They are starting to work around 1 in the afternoon, and getting off around 2 in the morning. That time period is when most alcohol-related calls come in. ‘Operation Dry Lake’ continues through July 4.

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