Spending the 4th of July on the water? Here's how to avoid trouble

With hot temperatures in store this 4th of July, a lot of people are expected to take to the water at Lucky Peak. And its going to keep marine deputies busy.

BOISE - A hot holiday is in store, and plenty of people around the area are breaking out their boats or jet skis and hitting the water.

We rode along with an Ada County Sheriff's Office marine patrol at Lucky Peak Reservoir Monday afternoon to find out how you can stay safe and have fun out on the water this 4th of July.

People have been celebrating the holiday all weekend and into the week, and now that the water is rising and is almost at maximum capacity, even more folks are heading to the water.

"In the month of June it was very off the amount of people that weren't here," marine patrol Dep. Adam Arnold said. "Because the water level is up now, all those docks that were a little harder to get to or not accessible because of water levels, they are now accessible."

Thousands of boaters, jet skiers, paddle boarders, kayakers and campers will be out on Lucky Peak this Independence Day, keeping sheriff's deputies very busy.

They say they're keeping their eyes peeled for anyone operating motorized vehicles recklessly or not following the reservoir rules.

"This weekend is 'Operation Dry Water' and trying to make sure there's a sober captain operating the vessel and making sure everyone is safe getting home too, that there's a safe driver," Arnold said. "So every contact we make, we're letting people know of that event."

Marine deputies will be handing out tickets to people driving boats or jet skis while intoxicated. The legal limit for operating a motorized watercraft is the same as driving a car: .08-percent blood-alcohol concentration.

"It's a little more difficult because the boat is moving and the waters are churning," Arnold added.

Ada and Boise County sheriff's deputies also patrol the surrounding roads and campgrounds. They respond to accidents on roads in the area caused by drunk drivers who have come from drinking on the lake.

Another rule to abide by if you're planning on heading up to the reservoir: follow the posted "no wake" signs.

"It's an area of emphasis and it's secluded," Arnold said. "When we come up and see someone on the wake, we're going to give you a ticket.

"Last summer we had several incidents that came off there with people operating under the influence, fights that took place, some domestic issues happened while people were back there. And all of them [were] alcohol-related," Arnold added.

Cliff jumping is off limits, and because there is always fire risk, officials want to remind you to make sure your fire is in the fire pit at all times and absolutely no fireworks are allowed on or near the reservoir.

"Those individuals are going to be asked to leave immediately and there are going to be some fines and citations that will be issued for that," Arnold told KTVB. "There's just so much around here that it can just spread so quickly."

Children under age 14 are required to wear approved life jackets when they are aboard a boat 19 feet in length or less whenever the boat is underway or powered on. This also applies to manually-propelled boats and jet skis. Adults have to have a life vest handy on board the vessel.

"They're required to have enough life jackets for each person on their boat," Arnold said.

As paddle-boarding becomes more popular, deputies have a few reminders: if your paddle board is over nine feet and you're an adult, you're required to have a life vest handy; anyone under 14 years old must wear a life vest at all times; you need to have a noise-making device with you, such as a whistle; and paddle boards must have an invasive species sticker.

You can be ticketed if you are overcapacity and have too many people on board your boat or jet ski. Deputies also say they often see jet skiers too close to other jet skis and boats; they want to remind people to keep a safe distance of 100 feet.

Another note: be cognizant of debris out on the lake.

"There was so much water coming from this past winter. It's gotten better but there is still debris out there. Everyone's just got to be mindful of watching out for that debris just as much as they are watching out for other vessels," Arnold said.

Their goal is to educate people about water safety so they don't have to ticket you.

"A lot of time maybe it's lack of education for some folks," Arnold added. "We want everybody to have a good time but we want them to be safe when they do it."

Ada County sheriff's deputies and officials with the Army Corps of Engineers will be out on the water and in the surrounding areas later into the evening on July 4, ensuring everyone has a safe holiday.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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