July 1, 2022 — Marine law enforcement officers across the state will be partnering with the Oregon State Marine Board and the US Coast Guard to enforce Oregon’s Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (BUII) laws this July 4th weekend.
“Our message is simple. If you boat impaired, you are endangering your life and the lives of others on the water,” says Brian Paulsen, Boating Safety Program Manager with the Oregon State Marine Board. “There’s a huge risk with no reward, and often innocent people become the victims.”
Marine officers will specifically be looking for impaired boat operators over the holiday weekend as part of the national Operation Dry Water Campaign. Many marine officers have completed specialized training to recognize alcohol and drug impairment. This includes prescription drugs, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, or any other substance that impairs a person’s ability to make good judgment and safely operate any boat. The effects of drugs and alcohol are also amplified on the water with the combination of sun glare, wind, waves, and other environmental stressors. Alcohol also dehydrates the body making sudden immersion into cold water at an even greater risk of drowning.
Impaired boaters can expect to be arrested or face serious penalties. In Oregon, the consequences of being convicted of BUII include the possibility of jail time, $6,250 in fines, loss of boating privileges, and a one-to-three-year suspension of the boater education card. Marine officers can arrest boaters on observed impairment and can legally obtain blood, breath, or urine if a boater fails standardized field sobriety testing.
“Recreating responsibly doesn’t just mean boating sober. Be a courteous boater, and wear your lifejacket,” Paulsen adds. “Waterways are becoming more crowded with a variety of mixed boating and other activities, so it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on around you and for everyone to follow the navigation rules of the road.”
“If boaters changed two things; wear life jackets and abstain from impairing substances, boating fatalities would be reduced by more than half,” says Paulsen. “Oregon’s waters can be challenging enough to navigate for a sober boater.”
If you see an impaired operator or someone who is operating in a way that threatens others’ safety, call 911 and report it. Paulsen says, “We can work together to save lives. See something, say something.”
The Coast Guard may board any vessel, at any time to ensure the safety of those aboard, which take approximately 15 to 30 minutes. The Coast Guard will start with the approach to the vessel, where they will hail the master via VHF-FM marine-band radio, use their lights and approach the vessel or use a loud speaker to signify their intentions. A Coast Guard boarding team will consist of two to four uniformed boarding officers, who will introduce themselves and state the reason for the boarding. They will then ask if there are any weapons on board and conduct an initial safety sweep to identify any obvious safety hazards and verify the general seaworthiness of the vessel.
During the inspection, the boarding team will physically inspect the following required safety equipment:
When the boarding is complete the boarding officer will provide a copy of the Report of Boarding, noting any discrepancies. If there are discrepancies on board the vessel, the boarding officer will explain procedures to follow, these procedures will also be written on the reverse of the form provided.
The Coast Guard and local marine agencies ask boaters to help be their eyes and ears on the water. Boaters who see suspicious activity should immediately call 911, Coast Guard District 13 Command Center at 206-220-7001, Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound at 206-217-6001, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River 503-861-6211 or the Coast Guard's National Response Center at 1-877-24WATCH (1-877-249-2824).
The following enforcement partners are participating in Operation Dry Water 2022: Baker County Sheriff's Office, Coos County Sheriff's Office, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Klamath County Sheriff's Office, Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, Linn County Sheriff's Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, USCG Sector North Bend, USCG Station Chetco River, USCG Station Coos Bay, USCG Station Depoe Bay, USCG Station Portland, USCG Station Siuslaw River, USCG Station Tillamook Bay, and USCG Station Yaquina Bay.
For more information about Operation Dry Water, visit www.operationdrywater.org.