Four boaters were charged with drunken boating in a safety crackdown on the Missouri River at Sioux City this past weekend. From five to nine o’clock on Saturday night, officers checked over 40 vessels, making those drunken boating arrests and issuing 14 other citations and warnings.
Conservation Officer Steve Griebel says most were speeding. "The biggest issue with the Missouri River is it’s a pretty narrow river and when you get a lot of boat traffic and personal watercraft traffic, it gets pretty congested," Griebel says. "With our speed and distance laws, people need to realize that they should slow down and just be safe."
There is no set speed limit on the river, but boats are required to keep a safe distance away from other vessels and not speed so much as to create a huge wake — or waves that impact other boats. "The big ones are boats that are anchored and people are cruising them a little bit too close and too fast," Griebel says. "Also, if you get a couple of boats crossing paths, they need to be farther than 50 feet apart."
According to Griebel, the boat traffic was quite heavy on that section of the river this past weekend. "It may have something to do with the price of gas this year," he says. "People aren’t traveling as far, so we have a lot of people — with Sioux City being so close by, that’s a huge population — and there’s a lot of people right there near Sioux City on the Missouri."
In addition to the four drunken boating arrests, officers say two other boat operators had a blood alcohol level just under .10 — the standard for drunken boating arrests. The legislature has failed to lower the blood alcohol level for gauging drunken boating to mirror the standard for drunken driving, which is .08. That means the two boaters who were pulled over on the Missouri River this past weekend would have been charged with drunken driving if they’d been behind the wheel of a car rather than driving a boat.