Iowa DNR stresses boating safety as summer festivities crowd the waters

The hot weather and July 4th holiday means more time on the water for boat owners in eastern Iowa, and the DNR is reminding people how to be safe on the water year-round.

Conservation officer, Ron Lane, said the goal Tuesday night was to keep everyone safe, and that starts with making sure boats keep a comfortable distance from each other.

"Here on the Cedar River, we’re going to have a lot of boats in a very confined area," he said.

Lane said paying attention is the difference in preventing accidents.

"As long as people are aware of everybody and where they’re at out here, we shouldn’t have a problem," he said.

Lane and the other DNR officers will be busy patrolling the waters Tuesday and Wednesday. If the officers are to come into contact with a boat, he said one of the things they’ll be checking is that all the proper safety equipment is on board. He said it’s important to have a life jackets for everyone on board with the recent rainfall has made water levels higher and that brings a stronger current.

Independence Day celebrations also means people tend to spend more time into the night on the water, Lane said. That’s why another thing officers will be checking are lights.

"Usually what happens is people don’t check their lights, then the sun goes down. They want to be here to watch the fireworks, and then their lights don’t work," Lane said. Boats with no working lights will be asked to leave the water.

Officers will also be on the look-out for intoxicated drivers. Lane reminds people that the .008 legal limit for cars is the same on the water for boaters.

While people were busy putting their boats in the water, Iowa DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator, Kim Bogenschutz, said it’s just as important safety-wise, what people do pulling the boat out afterward.

Iowa law dictates that it is illegal for people to possess or transport any aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels. The transport includes being stuck on a boat or equipment.

"We just don’t want people to be picking things up from one lake and be carrying them to another," Bogenschutz said.

She said in order to prevent that, it’s as simple as cleaning, draining, and drying boats after they are pulled from the water.

"Over 90% of people are aware and do the right thing, which is great. You know it only takes a few fragments of plants or a few zebra mussels to go from one water body to another to start an infestation," she said.

Bogenschutz said they’ve been able to slow the spread of invasive species down but still, every year, they see new bodies of water starting to see more of them.

The DNR reports that there were four boat-related fatalities in Iowa last year. One of the fatalities was alcohol-related.



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