It won’t be long before boating enthusiasts are crowding Iowa’s rivers and lakes. Susan Stocker, boating education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says those waterways could be especially dangerous this Spring because of the heavy snowmelt and recent wet weather.
"That’s going to move the large trees and all the debris coming down. If you’re not able to see that just below the surface (of the water), it can be a dangerous situation," Stocker said. Some large limbs or other debris can be big enough to damage a boat or eject passengers.
Stocker says that’s why it’s important to wear a life jacket. "No one expects to be thrown into the water, however, it happens…and you won’t have time to put the life jacket on if you are thrown," Stocker said. Iowa lawmakers this session passed a bill concerning life jacket use. Governor Culver is expected to sign it into law soon.
Stocker says the legislation will require children under the age of 13 to wear a life jacket while on a boat. "There’s a federal law (requiring children to wear life jackets) that affects the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and our Corps of Engineers lakes. But now, there will be a law in Iowa that mirrors that," Stocker said. Stocker also encourages boaters to leave a "float plan" with family or friends, so they know details of the trip should the boaters not return on time.