Kentucky Fish And Wildlife Urges Boater Safety Over July 4 Holiday

“Operation Dry Water” campaign focuses on impaired boating.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 27, 2024) — Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources conservation officers and other law enforcement personnel across the state are teaming up to keep Kentucky’s waterways safe over the upcoming Independence Day holiday.

Now in its 16th year, “Operation Dry Water” is a national heightened awareness and enforcement campaign designed to educate the public about the dangers of boating under the influence (BUI). The campaign facilitates a national focus on BUI detection and enforcement aimed at reducing the number of alcohol- and drug-related incidents and fatalities around the July 4 holiday each year, a time that normally sees an increase in these types of occurrences.

This year, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement, Kentucky State Police and local law enforcement agencies will increase their presence around the state’s lakes and rivers from July 4-6 as a reminder not to boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“’Operation Dry Water’ is an outreach opportunity to help bring awareness to safety messages around boating at a time when more people are likely to be out on the water,” said Maj. David Marques, assistant director of Law Enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “Our law enforcement officers will also be out on the water throughout the holiday to observe for those who may show impairment from drugs or alcohol.”

A law enacted in 2019 allows Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement officers to make a BUI arrest based on probable cause of operator intoxication when an accident has caused property damage or physical injury. Persons arrested for BUI may be subject to one day in jail for a first offense and two days for a second offense.

Together with other law enforcement agencies and safety advocates across the state, the department’s Law Enforcement Division recently launched the “Don’t Be the U in BUI & DUI” campaign to share safety awareness messages on holidays and throughout the full summer season.

”Boating or driving under the influence can impact boaters and others around them,” Marques said. “Together we work to keep impaired drivers off the roads and waterways to allow everyone to enjoy their summer outings and get them safely back home.”

Alcohol and drugs can affect judgment, balance, vision and reaction time for boat operators and passengers alike. They also can increase fatigue. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion may intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.

Other water activities such as swimming, waterskiing, wakeboarding and tubing can also be impacted by drugs or alcohol. Whether from a boat or from the shore, participants need to be aware of their own or others potential impairment and take precautions such as understanding the risks of mixing alcohol with these activities. Wearing a personal floatation device, being mindful of nearby traffic, paying attention to the weather, water depth and hazards in the area, and never going out alone are all extra precautions to ensure a safe trip. Kentucky law specifically prohibits swimming at any boat launching ramp. Swim only in designated areas.

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in boating accidents and fatalities, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2023 Recreational Boating Statistics report.

Boaters can learn more about boating laws in the Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide, the regulations summary booklet, available online at and wherever licenses are sold, or at “Operation Dry Water.”

For emergencies, dial 911. For non-emergency assistance call 800-25-ALERT (800-252-5378) or contact a local law enforcement agency or nearest Kentucky State Police post. Marine channel 16 can be used to contact a local marina.

“Operation Dry Water” is an annual effort coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and law enforcement agencies. Nearly 500 law enforcement agencies across the country, including almost 8,000 officers, participated in 2023, resulting in 302,146 boater contacts and 717 BUI arrests over the course of the holiday weekend.

(Lisa Jackson – Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife)