As Minnesotans flock to lakes and rivers for the unofficial kickoff to the boating season this Memorial Day weekend, so will extra law enforcement and conservation officers, looking for safety and law violations.
“Minnesotans want to get out to enjoy the great lakes and rivers we have available to them, and we’re here today to remind everybody to protect themselves and Minnesota’s waters,” said Lt. Adam Block of the Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR’s message: Think zero — zero invasive species violations, zero new infested lakes or rivers and zero boating deaths. The consequences can be costly — both to boaters’ safety and their wallets.
Boaters can be cited for not having enough life jackets on board (children under 10 are required to wear a life jacket) or not having a working fire extinguisher. Tickets will also be handed out for boaters driving while intoxicated or speeding. High water on Lake Minnetonka, for instance, has prompted minimum wake restrictions, which prohibit going more than 5 miles per hour within 600 feet of the shore.
“Hypothermia takes place quickly,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said on Lake Minnetonka, where the water was about 50 degrees.
Last year, 13 people died in boating accidents in Minnesota. So far this year, one person died in a boating accident in April in Blue Earth County.
Boaters also can get tickets for not following the state aquatic invasive species prevention laws. Boaters have to keep their drain plug out from the time they tow it out of the water to when they are readying to launch it. It’s also illegal to transport a boat with aquatic invasive species or water on it.
So far this year, the DNR has stopped more than 40 boaters leaving or entering lakes with zebra mussels on equipment.