More than 20 law enforcement agencies statewide contacted 2,600 boaters and arrested 10 for operating while intoxicated during last weekend’s “Operation Dry Water”, preliminary reports released June 26 by the Department of Natural Resources show.
The early reports also show the June 22-24 campaign to rid the waters of impaired boat operators involved 132 Wisconsin state and local officers who logged nearly 1,500 hours and had contacts with 1,285 vessels.
Charles Horn of the DNR Boat Safety program says the goal of the weekend, as well as the entire boating season, is to enhance safety by removing intoxicated boat operators. “Our wardens and other law enforcement agencies also made educating as many boaters as possible about the hazards of impaired driving part of this weekend,” he said.
The preliminary reports show there were 10 arrests for operating while intoxicated and the highest record blood alcohol level of the weekend was 0.18. The state’s legal limit is 0.08 percent. There also were 141 other boating citations issued and 429 warnings, along with 29 other citations for violations including fishing, drugs and warrants.
Last year’s final reports show Wisconsin’s conservation warden service and local water patrols dedicated 1,684 hours and contacted 1,870 boaters during Operation Dry Water. There were 14 arrests of boating under the influence and 162 other boating citations issued along with 599 boating-related warnings.
A significant public awareness campaign was launched in the days before Operation Dry Water to alert the boating community about the special weekend. Some wardens learned from boaters that the advance message did reach many, but it didn’t reach everyone.
Warden Mike Stahl of Oconto Falls said he had a number of boaters remark about hearing the Operation Dry Water message all week and wondered how many drunken boaters had been arrested.
Warden Ryan Volenberg of Two Rivers said while he had a suspected intoxicated operator at the hospital for a blood draw, the operator said he saw the news reports about Operation Dry Water.
Operation Dry Water, a multi-agency, education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide the last weekend in June to give operating while intoxicated enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.