Law enforcement to hit the water to keep boaters from overindulging in alcohol

Operation Dry Water will check for drunken boaters on June 24-26.

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WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office marine law enforcement officers will participate in Operation Dry Water and will be out in force June 24-26 looking for boaters whose blood-alcohol content exceeds the state limit of .08 percent.

Operation Dry Water will include increased patrols, breathalyzer tests and checkpoints as well as boater education. Impaired boaters can expect penalties including fines of up to $1,000, confinement up to 90 days in jail or both.

Sheriff John Turner said in a news release, "We intend to stop intoxicated boaters and to educate as many boaters as possible about the hazards of boating under the influence (BUI)."

A boat operator or passenger with a blood-alcohol concentration above the legal limit runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more likely and deadlier for passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessels or fall overboard.

BUI is a primary contributing factor in nearly one in five boating fatalities nationwide and Washington state has become tougher in recent years in enforcing laws against this high-risk behavior, according to the news release.

Boaters found operating a recreational vessel with a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher will find their voyages terminated and may have their vessels impounded.

Operation Dry Water, a multi-agency education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide to give BUI enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.

Mark Kenny of Washington State Parks and Recreation said in the release, "There will be arrests this weekend, and some boaters will face the consequences of boating under the influence.

"We want recreational boaters to enjoy themselves, but there will be zero tolerance for BUI."

Operation Dry Water is a joint program of the state Parks and Recreation; the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators; the U.S. Coast Guard; and the marine law enforcement divisions of Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties.

For more information, visit www.operationdrywater.org.

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