Smith: DNR urges caution over high water

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2014 - 8:40 PM

A fisherman on the flooded shoreline at Lake Nokomis earlier in June.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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High water continues to plague Minnesota boaters and anglers border to border, Canada to Iowa.

Emergency no-wake rules have been put into effect on nearly 50 lakes and rivers around the state to reduce shoreline erosion. In the Twin Cities area, those waters include the St. Croix River and lakes Minnetonka, Waconia, Prior, Orchard, Bryant, Johanna and Snail.

And Department of Natural Resources officials are imploring people to use caution.

“We’re urging boaters, paddlers and swimmers to think twice before heading out on the water,’’ said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. “And wear a life jacket.’’

River travel can be especially dangerous.

“High waters and debris from recent rains have reduced clarity and made boating difficult on the Rainy River,” reported conservation officer Robert Gorecki of Baudette.

Last week, the DNR announced it is giving counties, cities and townships more authority to enact ordinances to address high water in their areas. Municipalities may enact an up to 30-day emergency slow no-wake restrictions on a lake or river, and many are doing so.

“The purpose is to save people’s lives and protect property from shoreline erosion,’’ Owens said. Before the order, local governments could only enact emergency five-day restrictions.

Meanwhile, the rain and high water are keeping boaters dry-docked.

“Boat traffic is down,’’ Owens said. “And because of that, [boat] fatalities and boating while intoxicated arrests are down, too.’’

So far, only seven drunken boating arrests have been made, compared with 20 at this time last year. Three fatalities have been reported (compared with six last year), and one of those involved alcohol.

Minnesota law enforcement officers will be on the lookout this weekend for boaters under the influence as part of Operation Dry Water, a national campaign to discourage drinking and boating.

“About 33 percent of fatal boating accidents in Minnesota involve alcohol,’’ Owens said.

Sheriff departments, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Park Service officers also will be out this weekend targeting boaters.

Not there for entertainment

A group of women attending a bachelorette party recently on a 46-foot boat on Lake Minnewaska were skeptical when told the boat was having engine trouble.

And they remained skeptical even when officers from the Pope County Sheriff’s Department and Department of Natural Resources showed up to help.

“Upon arriving at the boat, the occupants thought that the engine trouble was a ruse, and that the officers in the boat were the ‘entertainment’ for the afternoon,’’ reported conservation officer Daniel Baumbarger of Glenwood. “All folks aboard were somewhat disappointed when they found out otherwise, but were happy to be returned safely to shore.’’

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