Sheriff’s Office launches ‘Operation Dry Water’

Metro Wire Staff

The Portage County Sheriff’s Office will have a heightening presence to ensure boating safety July 3-5.

Operation Dry Water is a joint effort between the sheriff’s office, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), and other organizations. The coordinated campaign aims to reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related incidents and fatalities on the water.

Alcohol use continues to be the leading known contributing factor in recreational boater deaths and a leading contributor to boating accidents, according to the PCSO.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and local law enforcement agencies will be out educating boaters on ways to stay safe while on the water, which includes always boating sober and avoiding any alcohol or drug use prior to and while boating.

“Getting out on the water over the 4th of July weekend is an enjoyable and relaxing activity for many. We have partnered with Operation Dry Water to help keep boaters safe by educating operators and passengers on the dangers of boating under the influence,” said Sheriff Mike Lukas. “Staying sober while boating is a critical part of boating safely.”

Boaters should also take a boating safety education course prior to getting on the water and everyone on board should always wear a life jacket while near or on the water, Lukas said.

“We want all boaters to enjoy their time on the water in a way that allows everyone to return home safely.”

Outreach partners and volunteers will be out on the water and at marinas, working collaboratively with law enforcement to educate boaters about safe boating practices. Law enforcement will also be detecting and removing impaired operators from the water. No matter where you are boating, it is illegal to operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In 2019, Wisconsin DNR officers contacted 2,410 vessels, 6,801 boaters, issued 202 boating citations, and removed 25 impaired boaters from the water. For the 2019 calendar year, 254 citations issued for alcohol violations statewide. In 2019, there were 82 reportable boat incidents in, 50 people injured and 9 fatalities.

The Portage County Sheriff’s Office is urging boaters to enjoy this boating season and help keep everyone safe by not drinking alcohol while on the water, or operating a boat after you have consumed alcohol. The use of both legal and illegal drugs also impairs judgment and reaction time and makes it dangerous to operate any vessel.

For more information go to operationdrywater.org.