Arizona winter visitors: prepare to clean, drain and dry

PHOENIX — 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 (AIS).

This reminder is especially important for out-of-town visitors who moor their boats at AIS-infected waters and are preparing to head out of state.

Afraid you might be transporting aquatic hitchhikers?

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

Call the Arizona Game and Fish AIS Program two to three weeks in advance of departure to schedule a free inspection and decontamination at (623) 236-7608 or Woods to Water LLC. at (602) 920-4891.

“As outdoor enthusiasts, it is our responsibility to be stewards of the places that we love,” AZGFD Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator Erin Raney said. “Stopping the spread of AIS is a big job, but with everyone pitching in, we can all do our part to protect our waters. All it takes is a few minutes.”

Aquatic Invasive Species are non-native species that are often unintentionally introduced by human movement. They do not have predators outside of their native range, and are able to outcompete native species. They can be animals, plants and even pathogens that cause disease in native fish or other aquatic animals. They can often be invisible to the naked eye, making them even more difficult to control. Once introduced, they can alter ecosystems by interrupting food chains, cause damage to boats and other recreational gear, clog up water and power infrastructure and pose safety hazards.

Stop the spread of AIS and keep our waters clean and beautiful for ourselves and future generations.

Remember to:

  • Clean boats, waders, anchors, equipment and gear by removing mud, plants, attached animals such as snails or quagga mussels. Freeze waders overnight to eliminate fish pathogens and other hitchhikers.
  • Drain all residual water from engines and motors, ballast tanks, live wells and bait wells. Pull your bilge plug and leave out during transport. Store in a location where you will remember before launch; for example, next to boat keys in glove box.
  • Dry all equipment that comes in contact with water, such as life jackets, ropes, buoys, tubes, etc.

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 above steps when leaving a listed water.

There are additional steps to complete for watercraft that have been on AIS-listed waters for six or more consecutive days.

Why wearing a life jacket should be one of your New Year’s resolutions

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

PHOENIX — The importance of wearing a life jacket while out on Arizona’s waterways was sadly reflected in the boating tragedies of 2017. A majority of the recreational boating fatalities were individuals who drowned and were not wearing a life jacket — the most important piece of safety gear one can wear whether on a boat, personal watercraft or paddlecraft.

This was the case for eight of the 12 fatalities that occurred last year. And it’s a number that’s echoed nationally: The U.S. Coast Guard reported that 83 percent of drowning victims in 2016 were not wearing a life jacket.

The Coast Guard also names alcohol as a leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, which was reflected in Arizona. Operating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs was a contributing factor in five of the fatalities.

“As you make your New Year’s resolutions, add boating safety to the list,” said Tim Baumgarten, boating law administrator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). “Designate a sober operator, wear a life jacket and ensure that others on your boat do so as well. Together we can prevent many boating tragedies and keep Arizona’s waterways safe for everyone.”

AZGFD aims to both keep the public safe by patrolling the state’s waterways and also educating people on best practices for boating safety and operation. Enforcement efforts including sobriety checkpoints and participation in initiatives like Operation Dry Water allow officers to make contact with watercraft users throughout the state and share the important messages about sober boating, while helping to stop unsafe behaviors.

The department’s Boating Safety Education program holds free monthly courses in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City with the goal of reaching as many Arizonans as possible. The classes include instruction on the basic skills required to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft, navigational rules, legal requirements and boating emergencies.

“Our courses are beneficial for both those new to boating and veterans of the waterways,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for AZGFD. “The classes are always free, and the investment of your time will pay off the next time a question or unexpected issue comes up when you’re on the water.”

AZGFD also wants to remind the public that life jackets must be worn by children 12 and younger anytime they are onboard a boat or watercraft, and that a properly fitting life jacket must be available for all passengers. For boaters who do not have enough or the right size of life jackets for everyone going out on the water, life jacket loaner stations have been installed at lakes Apache, Bartlett, Canyon, Havasu, Mohave, Patagonia, Pleasant and Saguaro as well as Cattail Cove on the Colorado River.

Whether boaters need to borrow a life jacket or (better yet) come prepared with their own safety gear, taking the step of wearing a life jacket can help prevent a tragedy.

Is a boat on your holiday wish list? 5 tips for a successful inaugural voyage

PHOENIX — If you’re hoping to be gifted with a boat this holiday season, the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants your first outing to be safe and go off without a hitch. There are a number of steps to take before hitting the water for the first time in your new watercraft. Here are five tips to a successful inaugural voyage as well as best practices for veteran boaters:

Register your watercraft. Make sure the vessel’s registration is current before heading out. It’s one of the most important requirements needed to operate a boat on Arizona waterways. Those needing to renew their watercraft registration can do so online at www.azgfd.gov/boating.
Take a boating safety education course. AZGFD offers free courses every month for both boaters and those who prefer paddlesports. Whether you received a pontoon boat or kayak this winter, learn about safe boating techniques and how to respond in the event of an emergency by completing a hands-on safety course. Class information and schedules are posted online at www.azgfd.gov/boating.
Always wear a life jacket. Life jackets aren’t just a good idea, they are required by state law for anyone 12 years old and younger when the boat is underway. There also must be at least one life jacket available for everyone aboard. In addition, remember that as the weather cools down, so does the water temperature. Cold water immersion and hypothermia can occur in water as cool as 70 degrees, and even in a healthy person, cold-water immersion can impact muscle movement, breathing and heart rate. Wearing a life jacket will keep a person’s head above water and body on the surface in the event that he or she falls into the lake or river.
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 also illegal to do so on the water. Alcohol is a top factor in recreational boater deaths — it was a contributing factor in three of the five boating fatalities in Arizona last year.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Make sure you have the proper supplies onboard including a fire extinguisher, first-aid kit and marine radio. In addition, leave a float plan with family and friends outlining where you’re going and when you plan to return.

AZGFD’s website aims to be a resource for those who enjoy boating and paddlesports on Arizona’s lakes and waterways. Become familiar with laws and regulations — and sign up for a safety education course — online.

As boating season winds down, prepare your safety gear for 2018

PHOENIX – Fall marks the end of boating season for many in Northern Arizona and as owners prepare to stow their watercraft until the spring, it’s an ideal time to inspect life jackets, safety gear and mechanical equipment. Getting repairs done in the offseason and taking stock of safety equipment will help ensure a successful start to the 2018 boating season — and it’ll give you a few more quality hours with the boat before storing it.

“Take advantage of the end of the boating season to look for anything that may need repairing and to take inventory of life jackets and other safety gear,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “By doing this now, you will have a head start in the spring and can make sure all the mechanical equipment is working properly and that all safety gear is stored correctly.”

The following steps will help ensure the boat or watercraft is stored properly for next year and you’re ready to safely hit the water in 2018:

1. Inspect life jackets for any rips, tears, mold, mildew and worn areas. Also check to see whether the label is still readable before storing life jackets in a dry location. Arizona’s climate is tough on life jackets, and on average they need to be replaced every five years. If you own an inflatable-type life jacket visually check to ensure there are no rips, tears, excessive abrasion or holes, all seams are securely sewn, and the cover, straps and hardware are still strong. It would also be a good idea to test the inflatable for leakage. Orally inflate your life jacket until firm and then let it sit inflated for 16 hours. A life jacket with a leak in it will not hold its firmness and should be replaced.

2. Check the fire extinguisher to ensure it’s sufficiently charged. If not, make a note to recharge or replace it before the next boating season or your next outing.

3. As every watercraft owner should do every time he or she leaves the lake, pull the vessel’s drain plug, and dry and clean the hull. Doing so helps prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species like quagga mussels.

4. Make sure propellers are free of dings, pitting, cracks and distortion, and that they are secured properly. Inspect the hull for blisters, distortions and cracks.

5. Check the fuel system for any leaks or damages, giving special attention to fuel lines and connections. Damaged fuel hoses could either be cracked, brittle or soft. Also ensure the engine exhaust and ventilation systems are functioning properly. As with fuel lines, inspect all belts, cables and hoses that may have been damaged during the season. Ensure belts are fitted tightly and that there are no cracks on the outer jacket of the throttle, shift and steering control cables.

6. Brush up on your boating knowledge by taking one of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s free safety courses. The classes are offered in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City every month to provide boaters with the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water. Get more information and sign up for a course online.

For more information about storing your boat or watercraft during the offseason, BoatUS has numerous articles covering topics like tips for storage on the water as well as a PDF checklist detailing the steps to winterize a boat.

Child Dies After Boating Accident Near Navajo Canyon

NAVAJO CANYON, Arizona – National Park Service Dispatch at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area received a report on Sunday, September 17, 2017, at approximately 5:20 p.m., of an accident in which a six-month old boy received major head trauma. It was reported the accident happened when a houseboat was trying to dock on a beach in the area of Navajo Canyon, approximately 12 miles from Antelope Point Marina. Reports are that when the boat struck the beach an adult fell on the child. The vessel had 13 people on board, including several small children.

National Park Service Rangers were patrolling in the area at the time of the incident and responded immediately. While transporting the infant by boat to Antelope Point Marina, emergency first aid was provided, including rescue breaths and chest compressions. With the assistance of the Page Fire Department, the child was transported to the Page Hospital for further evaluation.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Page Hospital to conduct an investigation into the incident. The child was flown to the Salt Lake City Children’s Hospital. During the early morning hours of September 18, the child was pronounced dead. The family resides in Bluffdale, Utah.

This incident is under investigation by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, the National Park Service and the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner.

Boat explosions at Lake Havasu highlight crucial role of proper ventilation systems

PHOENIX — The occurrence of two boat explosions two days in a row at Lake Havasu is an important reminder of the crucial role of ventilation systems, which work to remove flammable gases. Properly installed ventilation systems greatly reduce the chance of a life-threatening explosion.

A properly functioning ventilation system circulates air through the engine and fuel tank compartments to remove fuel vapors from the bilge. A best practice to follow is to always open an inboard engine compartment and let it air out before starting an engine — this allows you to smell for gasoline fumes.

Before going out on the water, check your ventilation hoses in the engine compartment. In a passive system the fresh air enters higher in the compartment to force gasoline vapor out through the lower hose. In a powered ventilation system the blower should be on the exhaust hose so any gasoline vapors are drawn away from the engine rather than introducing fresh air to the engine compartment if the blower was on the intake side.

“When considering repairs on your boat remember that marine-rated parts like starters, alternators or generators are designed to limit spark exposure, that’s why they are more expensive than standard automotive parts,” said Tim Baumgarten, boating law administrator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Resist the urge to replace engine parts with automotive parts because they are cheaper.”

According to The Boater’s Guide of Arizona:

  • All gasoline-powered vessels constructed in a way that would entrap fumes must be properly and efficiently vented to remove the fumes. It is recommended that at least one intake duct extend from a point midway to the bilge or below the level of the carburetor air intake, and at least one exhaust duct extend from the open atmosphere to the lower bilge.
  • If your vessel is equipped with a power ventilation system, turn it on for at least four minutes in either of these situations: after fueling and/or before starting the engine.
  • If your vessel is not equipped with a power ventilation system (for example, a personal watercraft), open the engine compartment and sniff for gasoline fumes before starting the engine.
  • Regularly check the ventilation ducts for obstructions, such as birds’ nests. Make sure you can feel air coming out of the cowl when the ventilation system is turned on.

A great resource for information is the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Boating Safety Education program. The department’s free courses include instruction on the basic skills required to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft, trailering your vessel, navigational rules, buoys, anchoring, legal requirements and boating emergencies. Upcoming courses and information can be found online at www.azgfd.com/Education/Boating/.

Public comment sought on draft recreational boating compatibility determination for Havasu National Wildlife Refuge

LAKE HAVASU CITY — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft recreational boating Compatibility Determination (CD) for the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge System that is available for public review and comment.

The process began in 2015, and a previous draft CD was released in April 2016 and withdrawn after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided more deliberation was required. A copy of the revised draft CD is available online at: www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/HavasuBoatingCD-Draft-July_2017.pdf

The public comment and review period is open for 30 days: August 1-30, 2017. To be part of the record, comments must be submitted in writing and be received on, or postmarked by, August 30, 2017.

Send written comments to:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Havasu National Wildlife Refuge
Attn: Draft Recreational Boating CD Comments
317 Mesquite Avenue
Needles, CA 92363

Comments also may be emailed to: havasu_comments@fws.gov

A public Listening Session is scheduled for Aug. 17, 2017. Details of that meeting will be posted at www.fws.gov/refuge/havasu/ once they are available.

“Public participation in this process is important to ensure future recreational activities on the Refuge offer quality experiences for all visitors while meeting the purpose of the Refuge,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, frequently asked questions, maps and other information will be posted soon at: www.fws.gov/refuge/havasu/

Game and Fish officers keep Arizona’s waterways safe as part of Operation Dry Water

PHOENIX — Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) officers made contact with hundreds of boaters the weekend before the Fourth of July as part of Operation Dry Water, a national awareness and enforcement campaign that targets people who are operating a boat or watercraft while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Alcohol is a top factor contributing to recreational boater deaths, and the initiative’s goal is to increase safety on Arizona’s lakes and rivers and reduce the number of fatalities and injuries.

This year’s weekend of enhanced enforcement took place June 30 to July 2, in advance of the Fourth of July, which fell on a Tuesday. During those three days AZGFD officers stopped 812 boats, 74 of which had a designated driver. Three arrests were made for operating watercraft under the influence, 94 citations were written, and two individuals were arrested for driving motor vehicles under the influence. Statewide, 89 AZGFD officers participated in the initiative.

The lakes and waterways patrolled were: Lake Havasu, Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, Lake Pleasant, Lake Powell, Apache Lake, Bartlett Lake, Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake and Roosevelt Lake, as well as Bullhead City and Parker Strip along the Colorado River.

AZGFD has been participating in Operation Dry Water since the initiative began in 2009. AZGFD partners with local agencies on the effort, which is done in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Although the legal limit for operating a boat in Arizona is .08 blood-alcohol content, an operator is in violation of the law and may be prosecuted for operating a watercraft while impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol and/or drugs.

While on the water, boaters should also keep in mind:

State law requires all passengers 12 years old and younger to wear a life jacket while onboard and that each passenger must have a properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Drowning is the most common cause of death in boating incidents — always wear your life jacket.
Anyone being towed by a boat or on a personal watercraft, such as a Sea-Doo or Jet Ski, must wear a life jacket.
Know the “Rules of the Road.” Navigation rules identify who has the right of way and determine the required direction of travel.
Never allow passengers to board or swim while the engine(s) are running. A boat’s propeller can still be spinning while the motor is in neutral. Always make sure no one is near the propeller before starting the boat’s engine.
Paddle boards, kayaks and canoes are considered watercraft and users are required to have a wearable personal flotation device onboard while on the water. These watercraft must also follow the same navigation laws pertaining to all watercraft.

For more information on boating safety or to sign up for a boating education course, visit www.azgfd.com/Education/Boating/.

Life jacket exchange events taking place Saturday, July 8

PHOENIX — Have an old, worn out life jacket? Swap it for a new one. From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 8, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is holding life jacket exchange events at four locations throughout the state:

Lake Pleasant — 10-lane boat ramp
Canyon Lake — main ramp
Lake Powell — Wahweap Marina
Lake Havasu City — Windsor Beach

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

It’s important that boaters check to ensure that all of their life jackets are in good condition and that they are the right size and fit for passengers. On average in Arizona, life jackets should be replaced every five years.

“While state law requires that anyone 12 and under must wear a life jacket when out on the water, it’s a good idea for all boat and watercraft users to wear one,” said Josh Hoffman, Boating Safety Education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Wear it. Don’t just store the life jacket on your boat to check the box.”

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.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that in 2016 there were 4,463 recreational boating accidents, involving 701 deaths nationwide. In cases where the cause of death was known, 80 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned and of those, 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket. In Arizona, there were five deaths from boating accidents last year.

“Wearing a life jacket could very well save your life,” Hoffman said.

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.”

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office joins Operation Dry Water to raise awareness about dangers of boating under the influence

PAGE – The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office will be participating in Operation Dry Water as part of a nationally coordinated effort to increase knowledge about the dangers of boating under the influence (BUI). The goal is to reduce the number of accidents and deaths associated with alcohol and drug use on our waterways.

Operation Dry Water weekend, June 30-July 2, is the national weekend of amplified enforcement of boating under the influence laws and recreational boater outreach. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is reaching out to our community and to the entire recreational boating community as part of the yearlong Operation Dry Water campaign to inform and educate boaters about the hazards and negative outcomes associated with boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Recreational boating is a fun and enjoyable activity. Consuming alcohol while on the water can hinder that experience and create a dangerous scenario for you, your friends and family, and others on the water. Alcohol impairs judgment and reaction time on the water just as is does when driving a car, even more so because of the added stressors of sun, heat, wind, noise and the vibrations of the boat. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office wants everyone to have a great summer on the water, and to do that you’ve got to stay safe and stay sober while underway.

As Operation Dry Water weekend and Independence Day approaches, law enforcement will be out on the water educating boaters about safe boating practices and removing impaired operators from the water. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office supports these efforts as they go a long way in ensuring the safety of recreational boaters and water sport enthusiasts.

Tips to staying safe on the water:

  • Boat sober. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths*. Alcohol and drugs use impairs a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.
  • Wear your life jacket. 83% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket*.
  • Take a boating safety education course. 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction, where instruction was known*.

Boaters can take the pledge to boat safe and boat sober, and find more information about boating under the influence at operationdrywater.org.