Boaters beware: Lake levels, crowds a dangerous mix
by Matt Shinall
Aug 31, 2012 | 841 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Matt Shinall

matt.shinall@daily-tribune.com

As Labor Day approaches and a long weekend calls boaters to the water to celebrate the unofficial end of summer, water levels at Lake Allatoona will add a level of danger to what should be a fun-filled day on the lake.

To ensure this Labor Day is accident free, lake officials are reminding boaters to be cautious when driving and always wear a life jacket. With drought conditions persisting across much of the nation, Lake Allatoona remains nearly 5.25 inches below summer full pool. At 834.76 feet mean sea level, Lake Allatoona was 5.24 inches short of summer pool as of Thursday.

With current levels, it is imperative that boaters follow navigation markers on the lake. Swimmers also will need to be aware of lake conditions as public beaches have been closed at U.S. Corps of Engineer properties.

“Boaters should be aware of all the navigation markers out there, the striper poles, because those are the ones indicating an underwater obstruction — boulders, sandbars. Do not go between the stripers and the shoreline because it will do some damage,” said Lake Allatoona Chief Ranger of Recreation Linda Hartsfield. “We don’t have any beaches now, basically the water is below the buoyed off beach area. Picnicking is still available for the weekend, but we do not recommend swimming outside the bouyed area.

“We have stopped charging for beach use because of low water levels and we did that about three weeks ago. We have also some [boat ramp] locations closed because of the elevation — that’s Tanyard Ramp in Bartow County and Knox Bridge and we have closed some lanes at Victoria in Cherokee County.”

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, there have been 96 boating incidents, nine boating incident-related fatalities and 33 total drownings on Georgia waters so far this year. Conservation rangers also have issued a total of 167 boating under the influence citations.

“Holiday weekends create a need for increased safety awareness from all boaters,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver in a DNR press release. “As always, conservation rangers will strictly enforce all boating laws in an effort to keep everyone safe, but we also encourage people to pay extra attention to others on the water.”

To prevent accidents on the lake this holiday weekend, the DNR suggests taking proper precautions:

• Designate an operator. Do not drink and operate a boat.

• Take a boating safety course. Visit www.goboatgeorgia.com for course listings.

• Wear a life jacket. Children under 10 years of age are required by law to wear a life jacket while onboard a moving vessel, but it’s recommended for everyone to wear a life jacket.

• Don’t overload boats with people or equipment. Check on the capacity plate for the maximum weight or the maximum number of people the boat can safely carry.

• Use navigation lights at all times when on the water at night. Check lights before it gets dark.

• Watch the speed. The 100-foot law applies to all size vessels and prohibits operation at speeds greater than idle speed within 100 feet of any vessel, unless overtaking or meeting another vessel in compliance with the rules of the road.

For more information, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating/safety or www.sam.usace.army.mil/allatoona.