In 2015 the State of Wisconsin had the dubious distinction of having the boater with the highest blood alcohol content (.228) of the 278 boating under the influence citations issued nationally during Operation Dry Water, a weekend when marine patrols are out in large numbers to raise awareness about the dangers of boating under the influence.
Operation Dry Water returns this weekend – June 24-26 – and both the marine patrol of the Door County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Coast Guard will be operating in Door County waters to ensure safe boating practices.
“Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreation boater deaths in the United States. By participating in Operation Dry Water, the Door County Sheriff’s Department is encouraging everyone to stay safe by staying sober on the water,” said Chief Deputy Patrick McCarty. “We want recreational boaters to have a fun and enjoyable time on the water; one impaired boater can ruin that for everyone.”
A total of seven members of the sheriff’s department have gone through the necessary training to serve on the department’s marine patrol, including Investigator Jason Stenzel and Deputy Scott Walker, who have been with the marine patrol since its inception in 2008.
In 2012 the department purchased a sporty 500-horsepower Donzi boat using a $180,000 Homeland Security grant, which also covered the cost of training officers to operate it.
Stenzel and Walker said when they are out on the water, they are looking for safety violations such as boaters not wearing life jackets or boats traveling too fast in the shipping canal.
“We don’t want to be the bad guys. We just want everyone to be safe,” Walker said.
Since the marine patrol began in Door County, officers have logged 582 hours of patrol, issues 45 citations and made two boating under the influence arrests.
Nationally last year, 582 agencies in the country participated in Operation Dry Boat, making 125,087 boater contacts, issuing 13,087 safety warnings, 4,855 citations and 278 BUIs.
Here are a few BUI facts:
- Like OWI, those who operate a boat in Wisconsin are not allowed to have a blood alcohol content level (or BAC) of .08 or above.
- Penalties for BUI in Wisconsin can include fines, impounded boats, and jail time.
- Anyone found to be operating a boat or other water craft is deemed to have given consent to an alcohol or drug test by authorities.
- BUI offenses do not affect boating privileges, but can include court ordered Alcohol and Other Drug Assessments that require participants to provide a certificate of satisfactory completion after taking a boating safety course. If you already have a valid certificate at the time you’re arrested, you’ll need to repeat the process to acquire a new one as the current one will be revoked.