JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa - Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are planning to step up patrol this weekend on Coralville Lake. The move comes as the Corps is preparing for the busiest three day span of the year.
"Memorial Day weekend is typically the busiest of all the weekends," said Randy Haas, chief ranger at Coralville Lake. Haas said the Corps is planning to seek additional boat patrols from the Department of Natural Resources. "The DNR will be out with probably a couple of boats," he said. "Most likely the Sheriff's department will have a deputy or deputies on the boat with the Corps of Engineers ranger."
The Corps of Engineers relies heavily on local law officers to assist with patrolling the lake because they cannot write tickets for state drinking offenses, a major concern during summer weekends. "All boaters need to have (life jackets) on board, and leave the alcohol on the shore," Haas said.
Officials do not limit the number of boats on Coralville lake, so the area can become very crowded in a short amount of time. Officers acknowledge that it is often difficult to patrol the entire lake because of its multiple boat launch sites.
Employees at the Coralville Lake Marina are also preparing for the busy weekend. "The water is up, the weather is great, we're ready to go," said Tony Johnson, finance manager at the Coralville Lake Marina.
Johnson said most boaters are extremely safe, and the staff reminds all boaters of local boating laws. Including a recent law change, which lowered the legal blood alcohol limit to operate a boat from .10 to 0.08 (BAC). "It's just like I was instructed with guns, every gun is loaded, that boat is loaded, you can enjoy it and have pleasure, or it can kill," said Al Kennedy, who has boated on lakes and rivers across Iowa since the 1960's.
Haas said there have been few problems on the lake so far this year, a trend he hopes will continue. "Only one boat got stuck (on the bottom)," he said.