State of Michigan

07/10/2020 | Press release | Archived content

Conservation officers continue marine patrols after heavy July Fourth water traffic

Leading up to the holiday weekend the DNR promoted its participation in Operation Dry Water- a national sober boating campaign.

A Portage Lake resident personally thanked Conservation Officer Todd Thorn after he and Conservation Officer Katie Baker arrested a drunk boater. According to the resident, the boater 'almost caused several accidents' in front of his house.

When the boat operator saw the DNR vessel approaching, he drove away at high speeds, weaving between other boats in the slow, no-wake channel.

Once the officers stopped the boat, it was clear the 47-year-old operator was having a difficult time standing and speaking. After all passengers and the operator failed sobriety tests, Baker drove the boat and passengers safely back to shore and Thorn took the boat operator to jail for BUI. Thorn received the operator's .179 blood alcohol content results earlier today.

More than 145 conservation officers participated in Operation Dry Water patrols. The highest BAC recorded by the DNR during the heightened sober boating campaign was .20.

Last year, alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; in incidents where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 23% of the deaths, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Conservation Officers Brenna Reed and Sgt. Chris Maher were patrolling Muscamoot Bay in St. Clair County when they encountered an intoxicated swimmer who had lost his friends. A passing boat took the swimmer onboard to get him out of deep water and officers helped him find his friends, despite unclear details about what his friends' boat looked like or where it might be located.

'We prepared for a busy holiday and strategically placed officers in high use boating locations,' said Hagler. 'Because many people are still on vacation, our officers will continue to have a visible presence on popular bodies of water during the upcoming weekend.'

Throughout the state conservation officers have noticed an increase in boating activity.

'All bodies of water in Oceana County experienced high marine activity, especially along Lake Michigan, Pentwater Lake and Silver Lake,' said Conservation Officer Ben Shively, who patrols that county.

Silver Lake residents and business owners told Shively they saw boater numbers they haven't seen in years. Shively discussed marine safety with several boaters on the busy lake and ended his patrol by escorting a man back to shore who was on a personal watercraft with a 2-year-old after sunset.