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Authorities remind boaters to celebrate the holiday safely

Boaters on Green Lake on Friday were all wearing the necessary safety gear as they enjoyed the lake. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- When heading out to the lakes this weekend, it might be best to leave the beer at home, local law enforcement advises.

Over the Fourth of July holiday, officers in both Kandiyohi and Meeker counties will be heavily patrolling the lakes for boating while impaired violations, as well as other safety concerns.

"Be careful with alcohol consumption," said Kandiyohi County Chief Deputy Randy Kveene. "It's going to be hot, so people are more likely to consume alcohol, which, even looking outside of boating, can cause dehydration issues and loss of judgment."

The legal blood-alcohol concentration when operating a boat is 0.08, the same as when driving a vehicle.

Last weekend, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, held its second annual Operation Dry Water, a national effort to regulate and enforce laws regarding boating while impaired.

Meeker County participated in Operation Dry Water and issued no citations over the weekend, according to Sheriff Jeff Norlin. He said it's fairly normal to cite low numbers of people for operating a boat while impaired.

But this weekend, alcohol and other safety concerns could come into play as more people visit the lakes for the holiday. Meeker County will have three boats and five officers patrolling the water, looking for anything from drinking to unsafe behavior to littering, Norlin said.

"Some of the lakes are popular and can get quite congested," he said. "Everyone should be careful and conscious of their surroundings. Know where other boats are and follow the buoys. They're out there for a reason."

Kveene said Kandiyohi County will also have extra patrol on-duty this weekend, though he wouldn't say how many boats or officers would be out.

According to Kveene, boaters usually do "a pretty good job" of following laws and being respectful of others, but he wants to remind everyone to exercise the same good judgment this holiday weekend.

"Wear a lifejacket or have one available," Kveene said. "Do not overindulge in drinking. Be considerate of others on the water or the shore."

Overall, boating safety will be monitored closely this weekend, especially because of the sheer volume of boaters on the lakes, Norlin said.

"For the most part, people do operate their boats fairly safely, but when you have a lot of activities going on, that's when you get congestion," he said. "We want to make sure everyone's safe about it."

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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