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High waters bring boating hazards

By Jenna Troum, jtroum@wkbt.com
Published On: Jun 30 2013 05:39:51 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 30 2013 06:50:25 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

The La Crosse County Sheriff's Department is urging boaters to be extra cautious out on the water.

The Mississippi River is at near flood-stage levels, swelling with all the rain the La Crosse area has been getting. That can lead to more hazards for boaters.

On a summer weekend like this one, it's rare to see so many boats sitting at the dock at La Crosse Municipal Boat Harbor.

But the high water won't keep Bryan Berzinski off the river.

“You've got to get out and use it. You've only got so many months to use your boat around this area," said Berzinski.

Berzinski has been boating since he was a kid, so he knows to keep an eye out for floating debris when the water is up this high.

"When the water comes up, you're seeing trees, barrels, anything that's picked up off the shoreline," said Berzinski.

The La Crosse County Sheriff's Department is on patrol, making sure boaters don't go too fast in the high waters.

"When the water is above the 10-foot mark, it becomes a slow no wake in a lot of parts of the river,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Patty Meoska. “Slow no wake means moving as slow as possible while still maintaining control of your vehicle and being able to steer your vessel."

Meoska said the high waters can make navigation a challenge, especially for out-of-town boaters coming in for July 4 who might not be familiar with the river.

"Going around corners on islands, it can look like there's enough water to get around and cut those corners a little short. But it's, again, a safety concern that they might get hung up on something, or puncture their boat or damage their motor," said Meoska.

Boaters are required to have enough life jackets on board for all of their passengers. The Sheriff's Department also says boaters should check that they have a fire extinguisher o nboard.

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