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Lower water levels bring boating danger to Utah's lakes and reservoirs

Posted at 5:14 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 19:46:09-04

Reservoirs and lakes will be popular attractions this weekend and next with hot weather continuing, as well as water levels still high enough to allow for boating.

But where there are crowds, there is also danger for accidents.

“When temperatures go up… everyone goes to the lake for fun,” said Ranger Chase Pili with the Utah Department of Natural Resources. "We still have a lot of water bodies that are still open.”

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But the drought is also having a side effect of higher danger on the water because of decreased surface area on Utah’s most popular recreational sites.

“With less surface area, that brings the boaters in closer," Pili said, "and when you start to crowd people in general, problems kind of do arise."

He and other rangers who work at Utah's state parks are worried about potential accidents. That's why they will be enforcing one of the most important laws this summer: Proximity laws.

Watercraft are required to stay 150 feet apart from each other. This rule applies anytime a craft is going fast enough to create a wake.

“That seems to be the most dangerous one I’ve seen in the past,” Pili said, adding that they will actively be policing the law.

But it's not just other boats or watercraft that people need to look out for.

“We have fishermen, we have skiers, we have wake surfers, we have swimmers, we have kayakers, we have paddleboarders,” Pili said.

Alcohol can also impair a boat driver's judgment — a risk that creates additional concerns for rangers.

“If you touch that wheel, you better be sober," Pili said.

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Other important tips include having a designated lookout and checking water levels.

Underwater hazards might be closer because of drought conditions. Boaters can check the conditions of ramps on the Utah State Parks website.

Above all, the most important safety precaution is to wear a life jacket.