GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning asks the public to remember safety this boating season as fishing tournaments and water enthusiasts take to the Ohio River.
“Our marine patrol units will be out trying to assist motorists and giving safety messages asking people to be safe on the waterways,” Browning said. “We’re not there to deter anyone from boating or anything like that because it’s great recreation for our area. We do want folks to be safe out there, though. We’ll have a bit of an increased presence.”
According to the sheriff, the office works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and usually includes them in any of their patrol operations along the Ohio River. The local Coast Guard is stationed in Huntington, W.Va. Law enforcement will be more active as July 4 nears. The sheriff’s office also takes part in Operation Dry Water, which is a year-round boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign. Operation Dry Water’s heightened awareness and enforcement weekend is slated for June 24-26.
Browning emphasized boaters to use their better judgement when making alcohol consumption decisions in regards to being on the water.
According to operationdrywater.org, operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is against federal and most state laws. Not only does alcohol impair one’s judgement and coordination but can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to cold-water immersion effects. Intoxication can also be dangerous for passengers and lead to slips, overboard falls and other dangers.
Eighty-four percent of people who drowned in a recreational boating accident were not wearing life jackets, the website states.
The sheriff’s office has three watercraft that they use to patrol the Ohio River. The office has purchased watercraft equipment as well as a Ford F-250 to pull the craft with a marine security grant. The money from the grant also goes toward funding water-trained officer salaries.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.