Patrols increase for drunken boaters over holiday weekend

During the Fourth of July holiday, law enforcement across Minnesota will be ramping up patrols on Minnesota waterways.

It's all an effort to crack down on boaters who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

“All of us are here today because we don’t want any more people to experience the pain and loss that boating under the influence can cause,” said Lt. Adam Block, a state boating administrator for the DNR Enforcement Division.

Operation Dry Water kicks off July 5, in a three-day statewide campaign to curb BUI’s or boating under the influence.

“People have lost loved ones this time of year,” said Lt. Block. “Others have endured life-changing injuries and still, others have to live with the knowledge that they forever changed the lives of their friends, or of people they’ve never met.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, alcohol accounts for about 30 percent of deadly boating accidents in the state.

“Usually as the afternoon goes on, it picks up a little bit,” said Paul Sickman with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “We just can’t pull a boat over just because we want to. We’re not the Coast Guard. We have to have a reason to stop a boat, make contact with them, so we’re looking for a violation to make that stop.”

In a state that has some of the strongest BUI laws in the country - the message is clear.

“The bottom line is this: drunk boating is drunk driving,” said Lt. Block. “If you’re going to drink, make sure you’ve lined up a sober driver on the boat and for on the way home.”

Authorities say Operation Dry Water can help reduce the number accidents and fatalities on the water. Last year, alcohol was a factor in half of the deadly boating accidents in the state, which is higher than the five-year average.