Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) game wardens arrested five people for boating while intoxicated on Canyon Lake over the busy Memorial Day weekend.
TPWD Captain Game Warden Javier Fuentes said boaters who drink too much alcohol can expect more of the same over the summer months.
Twelve wardens on six boats patrolled Canyon Lake over the holiday weekend instead of the usual four, and TPWD doesn’t plan on reducing that number any time soon.
Canyon Lake is getting slammed by boaters who have nowhere else to go. Fuentes said he and other wardens out on the water last weekend have never seen so many watercraft and jet skiers at one time.
Lake Medina is dry. Infrastructure repairs are underway on most of the nearby lakes managed by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA).
Everyone’s headed to Canyon Lake instead.
But Canyon Lake has a bad safety reputation.
Between 2018 and 2022, TPWD Public Information Officer Lerrin Johnson said there were 11 boat-accident fatalities, 38 boat-accident injuries, and seven open-water drownings on the lake.
Statistics are not yet available for last weekend or any of 2023, but in a press release issued Thursday, TPWD said 358 game wardens conducted 12,141 vessel checks over the Memorial Day weekend, 19% more than in 2022.
Wardens responded to 13 incidents, two boating fatalities at Choke Canyon and the Neches River, and two drownings at Toledo Bend and Lake Halbert.
“Although the weekend was relatively safe, unfortunately, deaths and drownings still occurred,” said TPWD Game Warden Col. Chad Jones. ”Our sorrow and sympathy are with the family and friends of the victims as well as the game wardens who assisted in their rescue and recovery. We are proud that more people are aware of and practicing safe-boating techniques, but we must continue to educate the public so everyone returns home safely.”
Kim Sorensen, TPWD’s boating education manager, said boaters should always carry the appropriate boating-safety equipment including life jackets for all passengers onboard, a fire extinguisher, a throwable device, a certificate number, and a boater education card if born on or after Sept. 1, 1993.
Children 12 and under must wear life jackets while on board while the vessel is underway.
TPWD also will participate in Operation Dry Water from July 1-3, a national year-round campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of boating under the influence.
Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boat accidents, organizers, including the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, say.
Boaters should be aware that:
- The federal BAC legal limit for operating a vessel under the influence is .08
- Alcohol use can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time
- Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion —“stressors” common to the boating environment— intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications
- Alcohol use can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion.
- Alcohol is dangerous for passengers too. Intoxication can cause slips, falls overboard, and other dangerous accidents.
- If you boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol you are endangering your life and the lives of others.