Life jacket exchanges tomorrow help kick off ‘Boating Safety Week’

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department and agencies across the U.S. and Canada will join forces to promote life jacket use and boating safety as part of National Safe Boating Week.

The annual event begins Saturday, May 20 and ends Friday, May 26. To help mark the occasion, the department’s Boating Safety Education program will hold Life Jacket Exchange events from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the 10-lane boat ramp at Lake Pleasant; Canyon Lake boat ramp; Saguaro Lake boat ramps; the London Bridge Beach at Lake Havasu City and Katherine’s Landing at Lake Mohave.

During the exchanges, people with old, worn and less-effective life jackets can swap them for a new life vest, while supplies last.

“Boating in Arizona can offer great experience for everyone on the water, but only if it is done safely and responsibly,” said Josh Hoffman, AZGFD Boating Safety Education coordinator. “While time on the water can be fun, it can quickly turn dangerous if you’re not prepared. National Safe Boating Week serves as a reminder to all boat and watercraft users to always wear their life jacket. It could very well save your life.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also helped to kick off Safe Boating Week, by issuing a proclamation, encouraging the public to be safe while on the water.

“Year-round, people continue to enjoy all that our natural environment has to offer through the joy of boating. National Safe Boating Week is observed to call attention to important life-saving tips for recreational boaters so that they can have a safer, more fun experience out on the water,” the proclamation states.

National Safe Boating Week marks the launch of the 2017 North American Safe Boating Campaign. This yearlong campaign promotes safe and responsible boating and the value of voluntary, consistent life jacket wear by recreational boaters through the national theme, “Wear It!”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2015, and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

“Each year hundreds of people lose their lives in boating incidences, and they might still be alive if they had been wearing a life jacket,” said Rachel Johnson, CAE, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, the lead organization for the North American Safe Boating Campaign. “It’s not enough to just own a life jacket and store it on a boat, you must wear it,”

New life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange style most boaters know. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling or hunting and are much cooler in the warmer weather.

“Completing a boating safety course is also an important step to being a safe boater or watercraft user. Educated boaters are safe boaters,” Hoffman said. “Luckily the Arizona Game and Fish Department offers free boating safety courses.”

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a free safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating. Those registering for an online safety course through BOATERExam.com can receive $10 off during Safe Boating Week by using the promo code NSBW17.

AZGFD to participate in multi-agency OUI checkpoint on Colorado River

KINGMAN — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) will participate in a multi-agency enforcement patrol this weekend on the Colorado River, pursuing those who are operating their boats and other watercraft while under the influence (OUI) of drugs or alcohol.

AZGFD, together with the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the National Park Service, will be enforcing Arizona’s OUI legal limit of a .08 blood-alcohol content.

Throughout the weekend, boaters may be required to pass through a checkpoint and be subject to a systematic safety inspection. Operators will be checked for any sign of impairment from alcohol or drugs, and to ensure the required safety equipment, such as proper life jackets and working fire extinguishers, are aboard.

“The responsibility for boating safety among watercraft users is critically important,” said Brandon Carley, law enforcement supervisor for the department’s regional office in Kingman. “The area is growing quickly, and we share these waterways with California and Nevada. It’s becoming very congested, which lends itself to more potential hazards.”

Carley advises boaters and watercraft users should review all regulations prior to launching. That includes having a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for every person on board and making sure that anyone 12 and under is wearing one at all times. Boats also must be equipped with a fire extinguisher and a Type IV throwable personal flotation device (PFD).

For more information on boating in Arizona, or to sign up for a free safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating.

AZGF Commission approves proposed boating and water sport rules, fees


PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Commission recently approved several boating and watercraft regulation changes aimed at increasing customer service and public safety on Arizona’s waterways.

The commission approved the changes at its April 7 meeting, amending the state’s Article 5 rules, which outline boating and water sports regulations and fees. The proposed changes will now be considered by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council on June 6 and, if approved, will become effective Aug. 5.

The proposed changes were recommended as part of a legally required five-year review of the department’s administrative rules. For more information or to view the complete list of proposed Article 5 changes, visit www.azgfd.com/agency and click on “Rulemaking.”

The following are among the proposed changes:

Requiring a signature be notarized/witnessed when the seller is not listed as the owner on the current registration or the signature of the buyer or seller is in question.
Allowing owners to obtain a duplicate watercraft registration/decal at www.azgfd.gov/boating.
Increasing the valid timeframe for a temporary certificate from 30 to 45 days and allowing a watercraft agent to issue a temporary certificate with the sale of a used watercraft.
Requiring liveries to affix a placard on the watercraft indicating the business name and phone number, and requiring a person who rents, leases or offers a watercraft for hire to register as a livery.
Requiring a wake surfer to wear a personal floatation device and that an operator ensure an observer is watching if a person is being towed behind the watercraft and/or surfing a wake created by the watercraft.
Prohibiting teak surfing, which is pulling a person from a vessel’s swim platform.
Requiring towing companies to notify the owner/lienholder that they have taken possession of a vessel within 15 days of obtaining the information from the department.
Authorizing a third-party vendor to process new watercraft registrations, transfers, renewals and duplicate registrations.

The following fee changes are also proposed:

Watercraft transfer fee to $13
Duplicate decal and certificate number fee to $8
Dealer certificate of number fee to $20
Establish an abandoned/unreleased watercraft application fee of $100
Transfer of ownership of a towed watercraft application fee to $100

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating.

Multiple quagga mussel-fouled watercraft from Arizona intercepted out of state

PHOENIX — Following the recent interception and impoundment of multiple quagga mussel-fouled watercraft that had been in Lake Powell or Lake Havasu for extended periods, the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds boaters to “clean, drain and dry” – and especially decontaminate — their watercraft and equipment before exiting waters designated as having aquatic invasive species.

Five vessels from Arizona waters have been impounded during the past month — three in Idaho and two in Colorado.

“There is absolutely no reason why boaters are not decontaminating moored boats before leaving a quagga mussel-infected water,” said Chris Cantrell, AZGFD’s Aquatic Wildlife Branch Chief.

AZGFD recently contracted with a local business to provide free decontaminations for those with boats that have been on a quagga mussel-infected water for more than five consecutive days.

If a boater plans on selling or moving a boat from one of the infected waters, please call AZGFD at (623) 236-7608 or Woods to Water Wildlife Solutions, LLC at (602) 920-4891.

“This way, we can help assist you with the required decontamination to ensure you stay compliant with multiple state and federal laws,” Cantrell said.

Quagga mussels colonize rapidly on hard surfaces and can ruin recreational watercraft motors, alter water quality for aquatic wildlife, and clog water intake structures such as pipes and screens, thereby impacting pumping capabilities for power and water treatment plants.

Under Arizona law, boaters and all recreationists who take watercraft and other equipment out of waters designated as having aquatic invasive species must use the following steps when leaving that listed water:

  • CLEAN. Clean/remove any clinging material from the anchor, boat, motor and hull, trailer (all plants, animals and mud).
  • DRAIN. Remove all water drainage plugs (and keep them out during transport). Drain the water from the bilge, live-well and any other compartments that holds water. Drain the water from the engine and engine cooling system(s). You can do this by lowering the outboard, while on the ramp, until the water is removed.
  • DRY. Ensure the watercraft, vehicle, equipment, or conveyance is allowed to dry completely before placing in another water in Arizona. Leaving your plugs out during transport will assist in ventilating and speeding the drying time of those difficult-to-dry areas of your boat.

See a flyer of how to clean, drain and dry.

There are additional steps to complete for watercraft that have been on AIS-listed waters for six or more consecutive days. See more information on all statewide decontamination protocols, how to schedule a no-fee decontamination, an intro to invasive quagga mussels, and the Director’s Orders lists of aquatic invasive species and waters.

If you are in need of decontaminating your moored boat before transporting from an AIS-affected water, please contact AZGFD at (623) 236-7608.

Arizona temperatures are warm, but the water’s still cold

Dogtown Lake – NAG Photo

PHOENIX — Arizona’s rising temperatures are signaling that the summer heat isn’t far off and some residents are already eyeing area lakes, looking to hit the water. With that in mind, the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds watercraft users that while temperatures may be warm, water temperatures remain between the 50s and 60s at many of Arizona’s boating havens.

“Undoubtedly, we have seen phenomenally beautiful weather lately, but that hasn’t done much to warm up our lakes,” said AZGFD Boating Safety Education coordinator Josh Hoffman. “The current lake temperatures would be quite a shock on the system if you were to fall overboard right now. Such a shock can lead to gasping for air, which if you aren’t wearing a life jacket could prove to be your last gasp.”

Even in a healthy person, cold-water immersion can impact muscle movement, breathing and a person’s heart rate. Prolonged exposure to the water can lead to hypothermia, cardiac arrest and death. If you fall overboard, climb back into or on top of the boat. If you cannot, stay near the vessel and use oars or anything floating nearby to help stay afloat.

“Area lakes offer year-round family fun even during winter months, but it’s critical for everyone to wear a life jacket,” Hoffman said. “Should someone fall or be thrown overboard, that life jacket – regardless of water temperature – could very well save your life.”

Life jackets aren’t just a good idea, they are required by state law for anybody 12 years old and younger when the boat is underway. There must also be at least one life jacket available for everyone aboard.

To ensure watercraft users have life jackets available, the department has installed 15 Life Jacket Loaner Stations at lakes across the state including Lake Pleasant, Lake Havasu, Lake Mohave, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, Bartlett Lake, and Patagonia Lake. Boaters needing a life jacket can borrow one, use it on the lake and return it once done.

Boaters are also encouraged to learn how to practice safe boating techniques and to respond in the event of an emergency by completing a boating safety course. To register for a free course or for more information on boating in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating.

AZGFD, Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to target impaired boat, OHV operators

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) will enhance its efforts to target removal of impaired watercraft and off-highway vehicle (OHV) operators from Arizona’s recreation areas through a partnership with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

AGFD was awarded nearly $46,000 in grant funding for officers to target DUI/OUI offenders on the state’s waterways and those riding OHVs. In addition to funding overtime for increased DUI/OUI patrols, officers will also target helmet, seat belt and child restraint compliance when required while riding in a UTV, an ATV or motorcycle.

“AZGFD has a strong relationship with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which has always supported our efforts to keep our waterways and recreation areas safe for families to enjoy Arizona’s beautiful landscapes,” said Tim Baumgarten, AZGFD boating law administrator. “Safe recreation means taking care of your friends or family by designating a sober operator and wearing proper safety equipment, including a life jacket while on the water and a helmet when on trials.”

Drowning was the reported number-one cause of death in approximately 76 percent of 626 boating fatalities in 2015 and alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents nationwide, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s most-recent statistics. Additionally, approximately 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

In Arizona, anyone under 12 years old must wear a life jacket while aboard and the vessel must have one life jacket available for every passenger. Those under 18 years old riding an ATV, UTV or motorcycle are required to wear a helmet.

In addition, under the grant funding, AZGFD will deploy its cadre of drug recognition experts to assist in the DUI/OUI checkpoints statewide. This will allow officers to perform additional enforcement without taking manpower and funding away from other AZGFD patrol responsibilities.

For more information on boating in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating. For more information on OHVs in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/ohv.

AZGFD, ‘Spring Aboard’ campaign encourages watercraft users to complete boating safety course

PHOENIX — Safe boaters are educated boaters, that’s why the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is encouraging all watergoers to take a boating safety course during the national Spring Aboard campaign March 19 to 25.

Those who complete one of AZGFD’s two classroom courses March 18 or an online course during the Spring Aboard campaign, will be entered in a drawing to receive a free watercraft rental generously donated by one of the following businesses:

• Phoenix ATV and Jet Ski Rental
• Jet Action Rentals in Tempe
• Havasu Adventure Company in Lake Havasu City
• Laughlin Watercraft Rentals in Bullhead City
• Parker Canyon Lake in Elgin

“This is an exciting time of year for our boating community,” said Josh Hoffman, AZGFD Boating Safety Education program coordinator. “Another great boating season is on the horizon and everyone is looking forward to when they can get out on the water. Before doing so, people should make sure they are prepared by taking a boating safety course.”

AZGFD offers free monthly classroom courses in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City to provide water users the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water. The department also offers pay and free online courses. Below is a list of classroom boating safety courses scheduled for March:

Arizona Boater Education Course
• 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. March 18, Apex Arms Facility – Green Building, 2176 McCulloch Blvd. N. Suite 8, Lake Havasu City
• 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. March 18, Arizona Game and Fish Headquarters, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix

Courses cover basic skills needed to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft, trailering your vessel, navigational rules, buoys, anchoring, legal requirements, boating emergencies, watersports and paddling. In addition, most insurance companies offer a discount on boat or watercraft insurance rates for completing a course.

The department also reminds watercraft users that all boats, including paddleboards, must have a wearable life jacket for every passenger aboard and those 12 years old and younger must wear a life jacket at all times, under state law. Users should also check to make sure a life jacket fits properly by ensuring there is no excess room above the openings of the jacket and that it does not ride up over the chin or face.

Spring Aboard is a national campaign coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) to encourage the state’s boating and watercraft users to complete a safety education course.

In 2015 nationwide, 71 percent of the 626 watercraft-related deaths involved a vessel where the operator had never taken a safety course, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics. It’s with that statistic in mind that NASBLA developed and produced Spring Aboard, utilizing a grant from the U.S. Coast Guard.

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating and click “Boating Safety Education.” To learn more about Spring Aboard, visit www.nasbla.org/spring.

Boaters, watercraft users urged to ‘Spring Aboard’ with boating safety course

Boaters, watercraft users urged to ‘Spring Aboard’ with boating safety coursePHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), is encouraging the state’s boating and watercraft users to Spring Aboard and prepare for the boating season by enrolling in a safety education course.

Spring Aboard is a national campaign that runs from March 19 to 25 and encourages boaters to protect themselves and their passengers by taking a safety course before stepping onto a boat or watercraft. This year, those who complete one of AZGFD’s free boating safety courses will be eligible to receive a free watercraft rental.

“Boating is a great family friendly activity, but only if it’s done safely and responsibly,” said Josh Hoffman, AZGFD Boating Safety Education coordinator. “The best way to ensure everyone on the water is having a great time is by taking a boating safety course. And because the Arizona Game and Fish Department offers them free of charge, there’s really no reason not to sign up for one today.”

Additionally, those who successfully complete a course are better informed on how to avoid an accident or tragedy on the water.

In 2015 nationwide, 71 percent of the 626 watercraft-related deaths involved a vessel where the operator had never taken a safety course, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics. It’s with that statistic in mind that NASBLA developed and produced Spring Aboard, utilizing a grant from the U.S. Coast Guard.

“We know that an educated boater is safer on the water,” NASBLA President Stephanie Weatherington said. “If a boater has taken a boating safety education course, the likelihood of their time spent on the water being a safe and enjoyable experience is much greater.”

Most states require proof of completion of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels. During the Spring Aboard campaign, many course providers, including AZGFD, will offer incentives or course discounts for students who enroll in or complete a course.

“With today’s wide variety of courses available, there’s a course for everyone’s schedule,” Weatherington said. “Boaters have many ways to get educated, from classroom courses offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons to online offerings available anytime day or night. There’s no reason to head out on the water without knowing what you’re doing.”

AZGFD offers free courses in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City monthly to provide water users the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water. Each year many deaths and injuries on Arizona’s waterways are the result of people who don’t know how to operate a watercraft properly or how to act to avoid placing themselves in danger.

For more information on boating safety or to register for a hands-on or online safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating and click “Boating Safety Education.” Below is a list of hands-on boating safety courses scheduled for April:

Arizona Boater Education Course

9 a.m. – 4 p.m. March 18, Apex Arms Facility, Green Building in Lake Havasu City
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. March, 18, Arizona Game and Fish Headquarters in Phoenix

Arizona Paddlesports Education Course

10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. March 11, Biscuit Tank at Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix

The department’s courses include instruction on the basic skills needed to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft, trailering your vessel, navigational rules, buoys, anchoring, legal requirements, boating emergencies, watersports and paddling. In addition, most insurance companies offer a discount on boat or watercraft insurance rates for completing a course.

The department also reminds watercraft users that all boats, including paddleboards, must have a wearable life jacket for every passenger onboard and those 12 years old and younger must wear a life jacket at all times, under state law. Users should also check to make sure a life jacket fits properly by ensuring there is no excess room above the openings of the jacket and that it does not ride up over the chin or face.

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating. To learn more about Spring Aboard, visit www.nasbla.org/spring.

Public invited to comment on proposed boating and water sport rules, fees

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is seeking public comments on multiple proposed boating and water sports rule changes.

On Jan. 13, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved a draft notice of proposed rulemaking, amending Article 5, which outlines boating and water sports regulations and fees. The deadline to submit comments on the proposed rule changes is Sunday, March 5.

The following are among the proposed changes:

  • Requiring a signature be notarized/witnessed when the seller is not listed as the owner on the current registration or the signature of the buyer or seller is in question.
  • Allowing owners to obtain a duplicate watercraft registration/decal at www.azgfd.gov/boating.
  • Increasing the valid timeframe for a temporary certificate from 30 to 45 days and allowing a watercraft agent to issue a temporary certificate with the sale of a used watercraft.
  • Requiring liveries to affix a placard on the watercraft indicating the business name and phone number, and requiring a person who rents, leases or offers a watercraft for hire to register as a livery.
  • Requiring a wake surfer to wear a personal floatation device and that an operator ensure an observer is watching if a person is being towed behind the watercraft and/or surfing a wake created by the watercraft.
  • Prohibiting teak surfing, which is pulling a person from a vessel’s swim platform.
  • Requiring towing companies to notify the owner/lienholder that they have taken possession of a vessel within 15 days of obtaining the information from the department.
  • Authorizing a third-party vendor to process new watercraft registrations, transfers, renewals and duplicate registrations.

The public can also provide comment on the following proposed fee increases:

  • Watercraft transfer fee to $13
  • Duplicate decal and certificate number fee to $8
  • Dealer certificate of number fee to $20
  • Establish an abandoned/unreleased watercraft application fee of $100
  • Transfer of ownership of a towed watercraft application fee to $100

The proposed changes were recommended as part of a legally required five-year review of the department’s administrative rules. For more information or to view the complete list of proposed Article 5 changes, visit www.azgfd.com/agency.”

Those with questions or wishing to submit a comment can mail them to 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086; e-mail rulemaking@azgfd.gov or call (623) 236-7390.

New watercraft for Christmas?


PHOENIX — Tis the season to head out on the water and if a boat, kayak or other personal watercraft is on your Christmas list this holiday season, the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to make sure your inaugural voyage is a safe one.

Whether you’re planning to take a new watercraft out for some sightseeing or to do some fishing, all new and veteran watercraft users are encouraged to remember the following 10 tips to remain safe on the water.

Always wear a life jacket. Life jackets aren’t just a good idea, they are required by state law for anybody 12 years old and younger when the boat is underway. There must also be at least one life jacket available for everyone aboard.

Register your watercraft. Make sure the vessel’s registration is current before heading out on the water. It’s one of the most important boating requirements needed to operate a watercraft on Arizona waterways. The registration fee is determined by watercraft length and ranges from $20 to $66 for Arizona residents and $100 to $495 for non-residents. Those needing to renew their watercraft registration can do so online at www.azgfd.gov/boating.

Take a boating and watercraft safety course. Learn how to practice safe boating techniques and to respond in the event of an emergency by completing a hands-on safety course.

Learn and follow the “navigation rules of the road.” In Arizona, most citations are issued for navigation rule violations. Navigation rules and water markers such as buoys are in place to help avoid collisions on the water.

Research where you plan to take your watercraft. It’s always a great idea to learn everything you can about the waterway you’re heading off to before you get there. Call ahead and check maps to learn about underwater obstacles and shallow zones.

Make sure you have the proper supplies. Make sure there is plenty of drinking water, snacks and food aboard if the plan is to be on the water for extended periods of time. Also be sure to leave a float plan with family and friends, detailing where you’re going and when you plan to return; and to pack sunscreen, a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher and cell phone or marine radio.

Do not install or use unapproved lighting. Rope lighting, “party” lighting and various other types of decorative lighting may not meet U.S. Coast Guard certification requirements and could increase the likelihood of a collision. Regardless if the lighting was installed before the vessel was purchased, decorative lighting could violate U.S. Coast Guard rules.

Do not drink alcohol or use drugs while operating a watercraft. Just as it’s illegal to operate a vehicle on the roadway under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it’s equally illegal to do so on the water. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents nationwide in 2014, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Cold-water immersion can be deadly so dress appropriately and if you fall overboard, climb back into or on top of the boat. If you cannot, stay near the vessel and use oars or anything floating nearby to help stay afloat.

Buy a fishing license. If fishing is even part of the day’s adventure, anyone 10 years of age and older dipping a line into the water must have a valid fishing license. General fishing licenses cost $37 for residents and $55 for non-residents per year. To purchase one and for information on various hunt and fish license combinations, visit www.azgfd.gov and click “Buy a License.”

Those needing to register their watercraft can save time by renewing online at www.azgfd.gov and clicking “Boat Renewals.” For more information on boating in Arizona, stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species (such as quagga mussels) or to sign up for a safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating.