By: Joanne M. Haas/WDNR Bureau of Law Enforcement
Recent August storms packing record downpours have pushed lake and river levels well into flood levels, tossed debris into waterways and accelerated currents in many areas of southern Wisconsin.
This has your WDNR conservation wardens urging boaters and paddlers to please keep alert to local water conditions, wear your life jackets and watch for debris -- especially the stuff you can't see below the water line.
Capt. April Dombrowski, head of the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement's Recreation Safety and Outdoor Skills Section, says the heavy rain and the rapid onset of flash floods in western Dane County and beyond in southern Wisconsin have resulted in road wash-out, closures and sinkholes. In addition to the roadway issues, it can have a major impact on your water-based recreational activities.
Capt. April says to please be aware of what is below!
"What may look like a simple branch floating downstream may be the top of a large tree or branch below. Sunken docks and other items may be hidden from view," she said. "Plus, the debris flood level water increases the power of current and water flow. Be observant & maintain safe speeds."
Capt. April says this severe weather is a reminder for all to check your local water conditions before boating or paddling, swimming or any water activity. Good places to check are local tourism offices, local bait shops, sporting goods stores or the U.S. Geological Survey, too.
And put on your life jacket before you leave the shore.
"Regardless of conditions, the best place to store your life jacket is to wear it -- and make it a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket," she said. "Today's models are comfortable versions. Wearing one just might save your life." Learn more about life jackets for every water sport.
Some of these storms and heavy rains have pushed trees and other debris in the water which creates another danger to keep watch. High water levels also increase the shoreline and erosion impacts of your boat wake. Some areas in Dane County have implemented lake-wide slow-no-wake requirements. Remember to always be aware of your boat wake and impact on others and check the signage prior to launching, Capt. April says.
Here are some other safety tips from the captain:
If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay report information to conservation wardens.