Department of Natural Resources
July 10, 2020
|High temperatures, sun and the anticipation of being outdoors - the water was the cool place to be during the July Fourth holiday weekend, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers stayed busy patrolling the state's lakes, rivers and streams. Statewide, officers contacted more than 15,700 boaters in less than 72 hours.
Conservation officers spent the holiday and surrounding days ensuring boaters were sober and responsibly operating their watercraft. This included an emphasis on preventing drownings by enforcing life jacket requirements aboard vessels.
"We were focused on boating under the influence (BUI) enforcement along with making sure people had the proper safety gear on board while they were enjoying the beautiful weather," said Conservation Officer Anna Cullen, who patrols Muskegon County.
|Leading up to the holiday weekend the DNR promoted its participation in Operation Dry Water - a national sober boating campaign.
When the boat operator saw the DNR vessel approaching, he drove away at high speeds, weaving between other boats in the slow, no-wake channel.
Once the officers stopped the boat, it was clear the 47-year-old operator was having a difficult time standing and speaking. After all passengers and the operator failed sobriety tests, Baker drove the boat and passengers safely back to shore and Thorn took the boat operator to jail for BUI. Thorn received the operator's .179 blood alcohol content results earlier today.
More than 145 conservation officers participated in Operation Dry Water patrols. The highest BAC recorded by the DNR during the heightened sober boating campaign was .20.
Last year, alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; in incidents where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 23% of the deaths, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Conservation Officers Breanna Reed and Sgt. Chris Maher were patrolling Muscamoot Bay in St. Clair County when they encountered an intoxicated swimmer who had lost his friends. A passing boat took the swimmer onboard to get him out of deep water and officers helped him find his friends, despite unclear details about what his friends' boat looked like or where it might be located.
"We prepared for a busy holiday and strategically placed officers in high use boating locations," said Hagler. "Because many people are still on vacation, our officers will continue to have a visible presence on popular bodies of water during the upcoming weekend."
Throughout the state conservation officers have noticed an increase in boating activity.
"All bodies of water in Oceana County experienced high marine activity, especially along Lake Michigan, Pentwater Lake and Silver Lake," said Conservation Officer Ben Shively, who patrols that county.
Silver Lake residents and business owners told Shively they saw boater numbers they haven't seen in years. Shively discussed marine safety with several boaters on the busy lake and ended his patrol by escorting a man back to shore who was on a personal watercraft with a 2-year-old after sunset.
|Officers in the Upper Peninsula noticed the same trends.
Patrol activity numbers from the DNR Law Enforcement Division, July 3-5, included more than:
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect residents by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.
For the latest information on boating safety, regulations, harbors, boat launches, high water and more, visit Michigan.gov/Boating.