DES MOINES — The last holiday weekend of summer is just ahead and tens of thousands of Iowans will be spending at least a portion of it on the water.
Susan Stocker, the boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says flooding has been widespread in parts of Iowa since March and boaters need to be especially cautious for hidden hazards. “It is still a concern for high water because we’ve recently had some rains and our heavily saturated areas are going to be a lot more saturated,” Stocker says, “so, there is going to be some higher water this time of year.”
Boat drivers need to keep a keen eye out for signs of anything that might be lurking just beneath the water line. “People need to make sure that they’re aware,” Stocker says. “Just because they can potentially see a portion of floating debris, there may be the chance that’s actually a 20-foot tree just below the surface. Definitely be aware of the debris that might be out there on the water.”
The DNR reports 65 people have been charged with boating while intoxicated this year statewide. That’s up from 54 BWI arrests at this time a year ago. Stocker says mixing alcohol and water can be a very deadly combination. “Nationally, 19% of the fatalities involve alcohol and unfortunately with our fatalities, it’s always been 50% or higher,” Stocker says. “Make sure you have a sober driver.”
Preparing for a safe day on the water begins in the driveway, she says, and make sure to have a properly-fitting life jacket for each person on board. “Wear your life jacket because you never know when you’re going to get into an accident and you won’t be able to grab the life jacket before you find yourself out in the water,” she says.
Stocker says it’s wise to file a float plan with a friend, including your destination, expected time of return and type of boat. She also suggests taking a boater education course to learn valuable information, plus, many insurance companies will offer a discount on boat insurance.
There are some 231,000 licensed boats in Iowa.