SPRING PARK — It was a busy holiday weekend for law enforcement on Lake Minnetonka.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol participated in an enhanced BWI enforcement campaign called Operation Dry Water, a national campaign that aims to deter boating while impaired by alcohol and drugs.
“Multiple arrests were made on the lake for boating while intoxicated,” DNR Conservation Officer Arnaud Kpachavi reported, according to the DNR’s weekly reports that were updated on July 8. “Enforcement action included registration, license, alcohol and boat safety violations.”
Kpachavi worked with officers from around the state and local agencies on boating enforcement on Lake Minnetonka over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Operation Dry Water ran from July 5-7 throughout Minnesota.
Conservation Officer Brent Grewe also patrolled “busy” Lake Minnetonka for the “majority of the week,” to check anglers, boaters and respond to medical emergencies. He “logged a variety of violations” including minors possessing alcohol, litter, no life jackets, overloaded boats and illegal-length northern pike, according to the DNR’s weekly reports.
On July 4, officials made 121 stops on Lake Minnetonka, which resulted in six BWI incidents, 20 citations and eight arrests, a July 9 news release from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said.
Over the entire holiday weekend, July 4-7, officials made 228 stops (an unofficial total), resulting in nine BWIs, 37 citations (an unofficial total) and 11 arrests on Lake Minnetonka, the sheriff's office said.
“We were very clear that we would be conducting increased patrols over the holiday, and that if you were caught boating while intoxicated you would be cited," Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said in the release.
The number of BWIs over Fourth of July weekend is higher than last year. On Lake Minnetonka in 2018, there were zero BWIs reported on July 4, with 117 stops, and the weekend after the Fourth of July, there were three BWIs, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Edgar Linares told Lakeshore Weekly News.
"...We are disappointed to see so many Minnesotans operating a boat under the influence of alcohol, but pleased that there were no fatal incidents over the holiday weekend," Hutchinson said in the release.
The DNR said in a June 28 news release that last year, alcohol played a role in half of the fatal boating accidents, which is higher than the five-year average. Statewide in 2018, there were 18 boating fatalities and 66 non-fatal boating accidents, the DNR’s website says.
In 2017, there were 12 boating fatalities and 92 non-fatal boating accidents.
Boating intensifies the effects of drinking
Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgement, balance, vision and reaction time, and being on a boat can even make someone feel drunker than their blood-alcohol concentration. Operation Dry Water’s website says the sun, wind, noise and vibrations and motions of the boat can “intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.”
Alcohol also makes it more dangerous for passengers, with the website noting drunk passengers can slip, fall overboard and be involved in other dangerous accidents.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office has a few tips to prevent intoxicated boating:
- Designate a sober boat captain prior to getting out on the lake.
- Bring non-alcoholic beverages on board.
- If you dock, remember to designate a sober operator prior to re-boarding the boat.
- As a passenger, make it clear that your safety is important to you and you do not wish to participate in boating with an impaired operator.
- If you see impaired boating, call 911.