Operation Dry Water Cuts Down BUI's

Cyndi Lundeberg

HENRY COUNTY, Tenn. - Boaters at Paris Landing State Park said it doesn't take long when you're out on the water to notice people boating and drinking.

Jim Hobbs has boated in the area for decades. He said the intoxicated boaters make him nervous for his family's safety.

"It's happened to us several times out on the pontoon. Somebody come by on a speedboat, everybody having a good time partying, the guy driving had too many. Next thing you know he either runs through you or over you," Hobbs said.

The number of boaters on Tennessee waterways has steadily increased throughout the years and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency believes that the more boaters there are in the area means a higher chance of intoxicated boating. The TWRA has stepped up patrols to keep everyone out on the water safe through a program called Operation Dry Water.

TWRA Officer Ricky Lyle believes more people aware of the operation and it has cut down on people boating under the influence. Lyle said a fun day boating can have life altering consequences for those too intoxicated.

"You have all these extra stresses out here in the marine environment: the sun, the vibration, the motion of the water. When you involve alcohol the impairment increases," he said.

The TWRA began Operation Dry Water in June by boarding boats and checking for impaired operators. They said their extra presence has made boozing boaters think twice.

"We have personally been boarded, often, quite often," Hobbs said.

TWRA said that on July 4, 2012, 20 people were cited for boating under the influence. This year, the Independence Day holiday resulted in only three arrests. Those arrested for BUI face hefty fines, jail time and a loss of boating privileges.

"We've had people just fly past us and you know they had to be drinking especially when they throw beer cans in the middle of your boat," Hobbs said.

Boaters who frequent Paris Landing State Park said they have noticed the difference the TWRA's efforts have made and are grateful.

"The best way to avoid a BUI is leave the alcohol at home," Officer Lyle said.

The TWRA searched more than three thousand vessels during the Independence Day weekend. They say they are prepared to do the same thing Memorial Day Weekend.

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