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Campaign prompts summer boating safety reminder

Operation Dry Water, a boating safety campaign took center stage on Watauga Lake and all waterways around the state during the recent holiday weekend, drawing public attention to the dangers of boating under the influence. TWRA reported no death our injuries over the weekend but did confirm 11 BUI arrests.   File photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics

Operation Dry Water, a campaign launched by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, zeroed in on ensuring boating safety for those that took to the local waterways over the Fourth of July weekend and for the rest of the summer recreation season. The campaign specifically focused on education and enforcement about the dangers of impaired boating throughout the state.

While July 4th holiday means an increase in boater activity on the water and an increase in the number of incidents, it is also an important reminder year-round. TWRA teamed up with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). The NASBLA started Operation Dry Water in 2009 and has been a highly successful campaign drawing public attention to the dangers of boating under the influence.

“We want everyone to enjoy time on the water safely, and our enforcement officers will be performing saturation patrols near high visibility areas, checkpoints, and utilizing our resources to assist in identifying dangerous operation/impaired operators, said Cpt. Matt Majors, TWRA Boating Investigator ahead of the event. “We want to emphasize how dangerous impaired operation is, and how it is a contributing factor in recreational boating injury or death on Tennessee waters.”

Along with the use of life jackets and other safety practices, officers want boaters to be aware of the effects and ramifications of alcohol use. TWRA emphasized the intensified efforts to detect and apprehend boat operators who are operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In 2019 during Operation Dry Water, there was one boating-related fatality, which occurred on Normandy Lake and nine boating under the influence (BUI) arrests made across Tennessee. 

Operating a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 percent or higher is illegal in Tennessee, the same as operating a motor vehicle. Penalties may include fines, jail, boat impoundment, and the loss of boat driving privileges. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths. Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications.

For more information on Operation Dry Water, visit