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Officials warn of water dangers with increased runoff, high levels

With boating season underway the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office is warning of a rising danger this year.

“Watch out for floating debris,” Marine Deputy Michael Vasquez said.

Vasquez said Palisades Reservoir is the area of most concern right now. With a high snowpack runoff, the recreational waterway is high and that is creating a significant increase in debris.

“You might not see it, especially if the wind is picking up and the waves cover them,” Vasquez said.

First responders have already been called out to emergencies on Eastern Idaho waterways.

On Saturday, a father died while boating with his son on the Snake River near American Falls. The Power County Sheriff’s Office said the boat the two were in hit a rock and they were thrown out of the boat. Neither man had a life jacket on. On Tuesday, a boat high centered on a rock in the Snake River near the Idaho Falls Power Plant had to be assisted by members of the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office.

While he was not directly involved in either incident, during our interview, Vasquez said anyone visiting any area waterway should be aware of the dangers. In many cases, debris can float under the water.

“Use due diligence. Watch out for the floating debris,” Vasquez said. “We have a ton of it.”

In the event you find yourself in an emergency situation, Vasquez said to remain call and have a plan.

“Have in the back of their mind if the boat does have a problem and they have to stay overnight or they end up in the water, what shore are they going to swim to? What shore are they going to meet up at?” he said.

If you enter the water, a life jacket could save your life. Vasquez said it is important to have one readily available and to use it. Once you enter the water, Vasquez said you have about 10 minutes of viable muscle movement, so he encourages you to know which shoreline you will swim to. also offers these tips to anyone considering a day on the lake:

– Be Weather-Wise

Always check local weather conditions before departure. TV and radio forecasts can be a good source of information. If you notice darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds or sudden drops in temperature, play it safe by getting off the water.

– Follow a Pre-Departure Checklist

Proper boating safety includes being prepared for any possibility on the water. Following a pre-departure checklist is the best way to make sure no boating safety rules or precautions have been overlooked or forgotten.

– Use Common Sense

One of the most important parts of boating safety is to use your common sense. This means operating at a safe speed at all times (especially in crowded areas), staying alert at all times and steering clear of large vessels and watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn. Also, be respectful of buoys and other navigational aids, all of which have been placed there to ensure your own safety.

– Designate an Assistant Skipper

Make sure more than one person on board is familiar with all aspects of your boat’s handling, operations, and general boating safety. If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way, it’s important to make sure someone else can follow the proper boating safety rules to get everyone else back to shore.

– Develop a Float Plan

Whether you choose to inform a family member or staff at your local marina, always be sure to let someone else know your float plan. This should include where you’re going and how long you’re going to be gone.

A float plan can include the following information:

name, address, and phone number of trip leader boat type and registration information trip itinerary types of communication and signal equipment onboard, such as an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

– Use proper lifejackets

Did you know that the majority of drowning victims are the result of boaters not wearing their lifejackets? Make sure that your family and friends aren’t part of this statistic by assigning and fitting each member of your onboard team with a life jacket prior to departure. Wear it!

– Avoid Alcohol

Practice boating safety at all times by saving the alcohol for later. The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved and studies have shown that the effects of alcohol are exacerbated by sun and wind.

Vasquez says drinking on a boat is legal in Idaho. In fact, a boat operator can consume alcohol as well. The problem is that if you are above the legal limit of 0.08, you could be charged with a DUI.

– Learn to Swim

If you’re going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety includes knowing how to swim. Local organizations, such as the American Red Cross and others, offer training for all ages and abilities. Check to see what classes are offered in your area.

– Take a Boating Course

Beginning boaters and experienced experts alike need to be familiar with the boating safety rules of operation. Boater education requirements vary by state; however, some require validated completion of at least one boating safety course. Regardless of your individual state’s requirements, it’s always important to be educated and prepared for every circumstance that might arise. You can learn boating safety rules by taking a local community course or online course to help educate yourself.

– Consider a Free Vessel Safety Check

Take advantage of a free vessel safety check from the US Coast Guard. They offer complimentary boat examinations to verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. Free of charge, they’ll provide a specialist to check out your boat and make helpful boating safety tips and recommendations. They also offer virtual online safety checks as well.

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