LDWF steps up waterway patrols

LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - After a long, cold winter a lot of people are ready to get out and enjoy Louisiana's many waterways. But with a busy holiday weekend comes greater risk for accidents. That's why enforcement agents with the Department of Wildlife & Fisheries are stepping up their patrols.

Sergeants Carl Armstrong and Guy Adams spent Friday on the Diversion Canal conducting boating safety checks. They ask boaters to show proper paperwork, a life jacket for everyone on board, a fire extinguisher, and other items depending on the size of the vessel. Most don't seem to mind the random inspections.

"I don't drink and I don't think it ought to be happening on the river, so I like to see you guys," one boater told the agents.

"I like that they're out here doing this. It's good, it keeps people safe. It keeps people in check," said another.

Armstrong said agents from LDFW's strike force will assist with patrols over the Memorial Day weekend on the Diversion Canal, Blind River, Amite River, Tickfaw River and Lake Maurepas. Most will work 12-hour shifts.

"The rivers consist of probably four or five different bars, and a lot of people just bar hop basically on the water," Adams said. "With the DWI (limit) being .08, it doesn't take much to be over the legal limit."

The rules on the water are the same as on the road, and so are the penalties.

Boating-related fatalities in Louisiana hit an all-time low last year, with 13 people killed. But agents stress that it just takes one drunk operator to ruin countless lives.

"We want people to have fun out here, but we also want the people to go home," Armstrong said.

So far in 2014 there have been three deaths in boating accidents on waterways state-wide, but none yet in the WAFB viewing area.

Copyright 2014 WAFB. All rights reserved.