The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission announced Friday afternoon the start of the annual water safety initiative “Operation: Dry Water,” a program centered around promoting boating sober that will take place this weekend.
“The Fourth of July holiday is one known for the increased boaters where alcohol use is prevalent,” Master Officer Matthew Lee said. “According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the primary contributing factor to recreational boating deaths.”
“Operation: Dry Water” will run through Monday, when N.C. Wildlife and the Lake Norman Marine Commission expect a high volume of boaters to take to the water to celebrate Independence Day.
“This initiative is critically important,” Morris Sample, executive director of the Lake Norman Marine Commission, said. “You want people to go out and have a good time, but just being on the water and in the sun degrades your ability to react. When you add alcohol to that, it’s not a good situation.”
N.C. Wildlife, along with their partners in all four of the counties that border Lake Norman, will have an increased presence on the water and at boat launches over the holiday weekend. On the shores, there will be safety checks conducted by local law enforcement as well as checkpoints on the water to promote awareness of the initiative.
“You just have to be mindful of the dangers that being on the water can bring,” Lee said. “We just want to make sure that everyone is boating sober and safe.”
According to N.C. Wildlife, there were 159 non-fatal boating incidents on North Carolina waterways in 2020 with 29 fatalities. Of those, eight were alcohol-related with four of them coming on Lake Norman.
“Our efforts are to reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related incidents on the water,” Lee said. “One life lost is one too many.”
This is the 12th year that the nationwide initiative of “Operation: Dry Water” has taken place, and it is believed to be an effective way of preventing alcohol and drug-related accidents on Lake Norman and beyond.
“(N.C. Wildlife) has certainly done a good job of making the public aware of the effort that they’re taking here,” Sample said. “People know that they’re going to find them if they’re not operating a boat responsibly, whether due to alcohol or ignorance.”
N.C. Wildlife also took the time to remind the public that may be looking to go out on Lake Norman over the holiday weekend that they want people to be safe.
“If you’re going to be drinking, have a sober operator with you,” Lee said. “If you’re going to be out here on the lake, just be safe and enjoy the holiday.”