Department of Natural Resources
Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers anticipate a busy Fourth of July holiday celebration on the water and encourage boaters to enjoy the water responsibly.
Every July Fourth holiday, conservation officers participate in Operation Dry Water - a national law enforcement campaign that promotes sober boating.
Last year the highest blood alcohol content level recorded by conservation officers during the July Fourth weekend was .20, which is nearly three times the legal limit. In 2020, there were 181 boating accidents reported to the DNR Law Enforcement Division, with Lake St. Clair reporting the most amount of accidents; statewide, the leading age group involved in accidents were individuals in their 20s.
In Michigan, it is illegal to operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person is operating illegally when they have a controlled substance in their system and/or their blood alcohol content is .08% or above - the same as operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Lt. Brandon Kieft, DNR Law Enforcement Division supervisor in Roscommon, said boaters can expect to see conservation officers monitoring water activities in areas that are traditionally known to gather large crowds - such as Higgins Lake and Torch Lake, both located in the Lower Peninsula.
"Boaters can have a good time and enjoy the resources, but they are expected to drink responsibly and operate safely," Kieft said.
Most people know alcohol can impair a person's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion, even on hot days. Some people may not realize the significance of those impacts until they are in that situation.
Swimmers, kayakers and debris hidden under the surface of the water are among hazards boaters need to watch out for. Additionally, water levels change often, sometimes overnight. Recent rain has created high water levels throughout the state - which can create strong, fast currents and boating hazards, such as increasing the amount of debris in the water and pulling smaller vessels into flooded areas or under bridges or downed trees.
In addition to promoting Operation Dry Water, conservation officers also encourage boaters and water enthusiasts to appropriately wear life jackets. This summer, in partnership with McDonald's, conservation officers will be giving away free ice cream and apple slice coupons to youth who they observe wearing their life jacket while on an active vessel, such as a boat, personal watercraft, paddle board, paddle boat, kayak or canoe. McDonald's coupons are valid at participating McDonald's locations.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state law enforcement officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect residents by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.
For the latest information on boating safety, regulations, harbors, boat launches, high water and more, visit Michigan.gov/Boating.
Detroit River: As part of Operation Dry Water, Michigan DNR conservation officers will have an increased presence on Michigan's lakes, rivers and streams to ensure boaters are recreating responsibly during the July Fourth celebrations. Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources./