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Iowa DNR talks boat safety ahead of busy weekend with high water levels at Lake MacBride

Iowa DNR
Iowa DNR officers conducting a boat safety inspection

CORALVILLE, Iowa (KWWL) -- With hot temperatures and canceled 4th of July events, the Iowa DNR is bracing for a very busy weekend out on the water.

If you plan to drop a boat in Iowa DNR conservation officers said there are a number of things people need to keep in mind to keep everyone safe.

Right now, water levels are higher than normal due to recent rainfall. That means the only public boat ramp that's not currently initiated is Mehaffey located off of Mehaffey Bridge Rd NE.

Today, Lake MacBride was already bustling with boats, jet-skies, and in some areas kayaks.

DNR Conservation Officer, Erika Billerbeck said people need to be mindful that with high water comes debris.

"With the higher water we get a lot of debris logs, sticks, and stuff like that that are sometimes floating just below the surface and you're pulling a skier. You need to be extra careful because it can run over that and not know you're on top of it before it's too late," said Billerbeck.

A KWWL News 7 crew tagged along as the Iowa DNR conducted a boat safety stop.

Officer Billerbeck and Seasonal Patrol Officer, Landra Reece said they'll be checking to make sure boats have a life jacket for everyone on board, kids under 13 must wear them at all times. It's also required that boats have a fire extinguisher on board as well as a working horn or sounding device.

"We always are looking for safety violations or safety issues that we see on the water to stop somebody before something bad happens," said Billerbeck.

With so many boat ramps underwater, Mehaffey will undoubtedly be busy, Reece said it's important drivers be courteous to each other.

There's not necessarily a speed limit, it's boat and distance. So if both boats are going 5 m.p.h or over, then you have to be 50 feet apart. Then if there's one boat that's going less than 5 m.p.h. and you're going more than 5 m.p.h. it has to be 100 feet apart," said Reece.

Of course, with so many pools closed this season there's also the possibility swimmers may be in the area and around covers. Reece said boaters will want to pay extra attention to no-wake zones.

"When you see buoy on the lake, it's a slow or no wake. So a no-wake zone is under five miles an hour," said Reece.

This weekend is also a national campaign called 'Operation Dry Water' which means DNR officer will be on the lookout for drunk boat drivers.

"You'll still get arrested and taken to jail, just like you would if you were driving a car drunk," said Billerbeck.

The DNR stresses to have a sober driver, especially with how many people will be in the water this weekend. The legal limit is .08, the same as operating a car.

The DNR also warns to be cautious on rivers if you plan to kayak, especially in areas with strong currents and high water like the Palisades Kepler State Park.

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Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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