DOMINION POST Monday 16 July 2012



In the Wake of Law Enforcement

Division of Natural Resources, local police helping to clean up waterways

Morgantown Dominion Post
17 July 2012

It must be something in the water.

On just about any given day you can look for a what’s what and a who’s who of alcohol-related offenses in our newspaper ... on land.

But on the water — Cheat Lake and the Monongahela River — not so much. Actually, not at all this year.

And only three boating under the influence cases last year on Cheat Lake. And boaters on the Mon River have gone dry for the past two years.

Though Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement officers admit it still happens on local waterways, it’s not as prevalent or as out in the open as it once was, especially on Cheat Lake.

But make no mistake, it’s not that everyone’s decided to start paying attention to the law while boating.

The DNR attributes this increasing compliance to more than a dozen new boats its officers now use to patrol state waterways during eight-hour shifts on weekends, that vary.

Morgantown’s police, who patrol the rail-trail along the Mon River, and other officers who man the city’s boat during special events also watch for drunken boaters.

It’s also worth noting the state requires younger boaters — age 25 and younger — to complete a boating safety course and the federal Army Corps of Engineers is promoting a water safety program for anyone using the pools formed by its lock and dams.
And although the decline of BUIs cannot be directly linked to Morgantown’s designation of a no-wake zone this summer on a large swath of the Mon River near downtown, it has definitely slowed the pace down.

We don’t have any firm numbers on the number of recreational boaters on Cheat Lake or the Mon River, but a random survey in the summertime would leave anyone to conclude there’s a lot.

For instance, given that the three marinas on Cheat Lake alone are home to scores of boats that traverse the 13-mile long reservoir daily, and a score of others who launch their boats into its waters, there’s plenty of traffic. If the DNR cannot find cause to issue a single BUI charge in that milieu, somebody is doing something right. When compared to the numbers of alcohol-related offenses on shore locally, this news is very welcome.

As the DNR can attest, a few short years ago Cheat Lake was overrun with partiers who seemed to consider themselves immune from the law of the land while afloat. That has clearly changed, thanks to law enforcement and public education.

Though the DNR and others have not made any big waves about their efforts to enforce BUI and other safe boating laws, they may have left a lasting wake.