For Immediate Release - April 02, 2010

Environmental Police Alert Boaters to High Hazard Conditions

Worsening flood conditions call for safe boating, lifejackets

BOSTON - April 1, 2010 - With rivers and streams surging and lakes overflowing, the Massachusetts Environmental Police are reminding boaters of safety rules, including the importance of wearing lifejackets. Under Massachusetts law, people traveling in kayaks and canoes from September 15 to May 15 must wear a lifejacket.

"We urge all boaters to take extra precautions, especially now, while the waters are high," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles, an avid boater whose secretariat includes the Massachusetts Environmental Police. "Putting on a life vest is the best thing you can do - it could save your life."

High water and swift moving water conditions lead to unpredictable water hazards, including floating debris. In addition, water temperatures in coastal waters and rivers and lakes this time of year average 40 degrees - a temperature that can cause hypothermia and offset even a strong swimmer's ability to swim safely to shore.

In addition to wearing life jackets, officials urge boaters to check conditions of waterways before boating, take a boating safety course, operate boats only while sober and make sure their boats have safety equipment onboard.

"We have officers out patrolling to ensure a safe boating season but safety begins with each individual," said Massachusetts Environmental Police Director Aaron Gross, whose agency is responsible for enforcing the Commonwealth's boating and recreational vehicle laws. "It is important to follow boating regulations and safety guidelines and use common sense when choosing to navigate vessels in flood-stage waters."

Director Gross also noted that each boat should come equipped with one personal flotation device, or life jacket, for each person in the vessel. Massachusetts law requires children under the age of 12, all persons riding personal watercraft (such as Jet Skis), and all water skiers and tubers to wear approved life jackets.

According to Director Gross, this year there have already been two boating accident fatalities involving kayaks. In both cases, swift and cold water contributed to the accidents. There were 60 accidents resulting in 10 fatalities in 2009. In 2008, there were 100 accidents and 13 fatalities. In 2007, there were 68 accidents and seven fatalities. During all three years, most fatalities were drownings and none of the victims were wearing life jackets.

Operating any vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited. Boaters are also prohibited from operating within 150 feet of a public or private swimming area. For inland waters, operating at a speed greater than 45 mph is considered excessive.

Under Massachusetts law, boaters under the age of 12 may not operate a motorboat unless accompanied and supervised an adult. Children between the ages of 12 and 15 must complete an approved boating course. Children under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft. All boats are required to carry life preservers, fire extinguishers, and navigation lights. A paddle or an oar is required on boats less than 16 feet long.

All boating accidents should be reported to the Massachusetts Environmental Police at (800) 632-8075.

The Environmental Police encourage boaters of all ages and experience to take a safe boating course. Click here for registration information and links to nationally approved course providers.

2010 Boat Safety Course Schedule

TOWN

LOCATION

DATES

TIME

Foxboro

Bass Pro Shop

APR 7, 15, and 21

6:00 - 9:00 PM

Quincy

Houghs Neck Maritime Center

APR 10, 17, and 24

8:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Gloucester

Gloucester High School

APR 12, 13, 14, 20 and 21

6:30 - 8:30 PM

North Brookfield

North Brookfield High School

APR 17 and 24

8:00 AM - 2:00 PM

Salisbury

Merrimack Valley Boys and Girls Club

APR 19, 20, 21, and 22

6:00 - 8:30 PM

Fairhaven

Fairhaven Police Dept.

APR 21, 22, 28, and 29

6:00 - 8:00 PM

Manchester

Manchester-Essex Regional High School

APR 26, 28, MAY 3, 4, and 10

6:30 - 8:30 PM

Sutton

Sutton Fire Dept Station #2

APR 27, 29, MAY 4 and 6

6:30 - 9:00 PM

Quincy

Houghs Neck Maritime Center

MAY 3, 10, and 17

6:00 - 9:30 PM

Middleton

Baert Marine

MAY 3, 5, 10, 12 and 17

6:30 - 8:30 PM

Mashpee

Mashpee High School

MAY 6, 13, 20, 27 and JUN 3

6:30 - 8:30 PM

Tewksbury

Tewksbury Rod & Gun Club

JUN 3, 10, 17, and 24

6:30 - 9:00 PM

Newton

Newton Yacht Club

JUN 8, 10, 15 and 17

6:00 - 9:00 PM

Williamstown

Mt. Greylock High School

JUN 26

8:00 AM - 4:30 PM

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' Office of Law Enforcement - known also as the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) - is the primary agency responsible for enforcing the Commonwealth's fish and game and boating and recreational vehicle laws. MEP officers enforce laws and regulations related to the protection of natural resources and public parks and land; boat and recreational vehicle use; and hazardous waste disposal. MEP officers serve as stewards of the state's natural resources, patrolling forests, parks, inland waterways and coastal waters throughout the Commonwealth.