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MailTribune.com
  • Water police will be watching for drunk boaters this weekend

  • Marine patrol officers will be out in force in Jackson County and throughout the U.S. this weekend aggressively enforcing drunken-boating laws as part of the annual Operation Dry Water awareness and education campaign.
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  • Marine patrol officers will be out in force in Jackson County and throughout the U.S. this weekend aggressively enforcing drunken-boating laws as part of the annual Operation Dry Water awareness and education campaign.
    From today through Sunday, marine deputies and Oregon State Police fish and wildlife troopers will be patrolling as part of a coordinated effort to reduce accidents and fatalities related to boating under the influence of intoxicants.
    This is the sixth annual weekend in which marine patrols focus on separating boozers from their boats just before the Fourth of July.
    Enforcement will include motorized and nonmotorized boats, but most marine patrols will pay closer attention to motorized boaters because alcohol-related accidents in powerboats tend to be more severe.
    U.S. Coast Guard data reveal that alcohol remains the primary contributing factor in recreational boating fatalities.
    Since last July 1, nine of the 28 BUII arrests in Oregon have been in Jackson County, according to the Oregon State Marine Board.
    "It used to be 200 to 250 a year statewide," says Dale Flowers, the law enforcement training coordinator for the Marine Board.
    The drop isn't because there is less alcohol consumed on Oregon's waterways, Flower says.
    "What we're seeing is if they're going to drink, they'll have a designated operator, and that's huge," Flowers says. "It's become commonplace."
    Under Oregon law, boat operators are allowed to drink alcohol and possess open containers on boats. However, boat operators cannot be under the influence — meaning their blood-alcohol level cannot be above the same .08 percent threshold for drunken driving. Those with a lower blood-alcohol level can face arrest if they are impaired.
    Under state law, operation of a watercraft can include paddling a raft, even if the paddler is joined by others.
    Flowers warns that wind, sun and other factors can increase the impact of alcohol.
    Those who run afoul of BUII laws face sobering fines. Upon arrest, boats can be seized and suspects jailed.
    In Jackson County, all BUII suspects typically are cited for Class A misdemeanors. The Jackson County District Attorney's Office has the option of reducing it to a violation.
    A Class A misdemeanor can lead to punishments as high as a year in jail, a $6,250 fine and a loss of boating privileges for up to three years, according to the Marine Board.
    Running for two didn't become too taxing for Bobbi St. Clair last weekend as she helped her 12-person running relay team to 13th place out of 71 teams taking part in the second annual Wild Rogue Relay race.
    The Grants Pass woman, who is close to eight months pregnant, ran all three of her legs in the 36-leg relay Jan. 20-21 from Applegate Lake to Gold Beach, helping team Toenails are for Sissies to complete the course in just over 31 hours.
    "We weren't as fast as last year, but it went well," says St. Clair, 31. "We had a good time. We were happy."
    She says she wasn't the only pregnant runner in the field, but her teammates did cut her a little slack for her condition.
    "I had the excuse to run the easy legs," she says.
    The winners were team Dane Train, which covered the 215-mile course in 23 hours and 50 minutes.
    The teams ran largely on backroads and logging roads, following portions of the Rogue River before finishing at the Curry County Fairgrounds.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.
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