Annual Operation Dry Water campaign aims to prevent alcohol and drug-related boating incidents

Wildlife law enforcement officers patrolling inland waters. [NC Wildlife Image]

In efforts to ensure a safer July 4 holiday experience on the water, law enforcement officers with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) will participate in Operation Dry Water, a national campaign being observed July 1 to 3 through the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). The focus of the campaign is to heighten enforcement and awareness about the dangers of boating while impaired.    

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol continues to be the leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths and a major factor in incidents on the water. Wildlife officers will be increasing water patrols and providing boaters with information on the dangers of impaired boating, in addition to enforcing state laws.   

“This is one of the busiest weekends for boaters every year. The presence of law enforcement officers in North Carolina is a key factor in preventing incidents from occurring or escalating,” said Lt. Nathan Green, N.C. Wildlife Law Enforcement Division. “The Operation Dry Water campaign is an effective resource in providing safer boating opportunities, keeping boating safety at the forefront of holiday activities.”   

Last year, the N.C. Wildlife Law Enforcement Division was recognized with the Top Agency Award by NASBLA. 

It is unlawful to operate a recreational vessel with an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, or while being appreciably impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other impairing substances. During last year’s campaign, NCWRC law enforcement officers deployed 153 officers and removed 65 people from the water who were boating while impaired.  

Officials also stress the importance of other boating safety practices while on the water. So far this year, 28 boating incidents have occurred in North Carolina; five were fatal. Wildlife officers urge boaters to boat responsibly. Last year in North Carolina, boating incidents resulted in 20 fatalities. Of those, 16 were not wearing a life jacket.  

Additional support for  Operation Dry Water and The Governor’s Highway Safety Program’s Operation Firecracker Booze it & Lose It campaign includes North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement and the North Carolina Forensic Tests for Alcohol Branch.