WALL LAKE, S.D. (KELO) –If you’re loading up the boat tonight to spend your holiday weekend at the lake, you won’t be alone. With more people on the water for the Fourth comes the likelihood of more boaters drinking.
The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department is taking part in a nationwide effort this weekend called Operation Dry Water, to prevent boating under the influence.
Lakes in KELOLAND, popular destinations during a long holiday weekend, become all the more alluring for families cooped-up at home during the pandemic.
“It’s a good time to get out and get away from everybody else, spend some time with the family,” Troy Dam of Sioux Falls said.
The Game Fish and Parks Department will be joining the crowds on the water, conducting safety checks, including alcohol on-board. Drinking can quickly catch-up with boaters on a hot summer’s day.
“When you get out in 90-degrees on the water, it takes a lot less alcohol to become intoxicated. We definitely encourage people that are drinking on the boat to make sure they watch their alcohol and know their limits and have a sober driver,” Game, Fish & Parks Regional Conservation Officer Supervisor Jeremy Roe said.
As part of their effort to social distance, officers with the Game, Fish and Parks Department were conducting mostly spot-checks during the pandemic. But starting this weekend, they’ll be ramping-up their efforts and stop every boat they encounter on the water.
“We’re going to be out in full-force with Operation Dry Water going on this weekend, so every officer in the state will be out Friday, Saturday, Sunday and doing those boating checks, so getting somewhere back to normal,” Roe said.
Roe says Game, Fish and Parks has seen an increase in boating under the influence arrests over the past few summers, most likely because of higher traffic on area lakes.
That has families on alert hoping they steer clear of boaters who’ve had too much to drink.
“If you want to drink, stay where you’re at and drink. If you want to boat, come out and boat, drink later. It’s that obvious,” Dam said.
Boating under the influence has the same .08 blood-alcohol threshold as driving under the influence.
Game, Fish and Parks will also be checking to make sure boaters pull the plugs out of their boat drains once they’re out of the water, to prevent the spread of invasive species like zebra mussels. The fine for not doing so went up by an additional $100 on July 1.