Law enforcement will be out in force this weekend – on the Merrimack River

People stand on the banks of the Merrimack River near the Lowell-Tewksbury border one recent afternoon. PHOTO PROVIDED

LOWELL  — In an effort to increase public safety and marine compliance along the Merrimack River, the Merrimack River Task Force announced it will be active in Operation Dry Water during the July 4 holiday weekend.

A consortium of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, the joint Merrimack River Task Force will work to ensure residents and visitors are able to enjoy land and maritime activities on the Merrimack River in a safe, responsible manner.

Operation Dry Water, a nationwide campaign addressing boating under the influence (BUI), will take place July 3 – 5, 2020. Increased numbers of recreational boaters on the water, as well as an increase in the number of injuries and deadly accidents related to boating under the influence, is common during the July 4 holiday weekend.

The U.S. Coast Guard, local and state law enforcement agencies, recreational boating safety advocates and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) are participating to help raise awareness and prevent tragedies related to boating under the influence.

“Massachusetts has seen a dramatic increase in tragic boating accidents this year attributed to great boating weather and a significant growth in boating traffic,” said Massachusetts Environmental Police Col. Shaun Santos. “Enforcing BUIs to increase boating safety is a critical priority for the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and we look forward to collaborating with local police agencies across the Commonwealth to enforce BUI law.”

Santos is a former Lowell police officer.

The Merrimack River boasts a large recreational presence of motor vessels, paddle craft, water sports, and anglers alike. Safety should be a priority for everyone operating on the water as speed restrictions and aids to navigation protect those who share the river.

The Task Force is composed of law enforcement and vessels from Lowell, Lawrence, Methuen, Chelmsford, Dracut, Tyngsboro and Andover along with the Massachusetts Environmental Police, United States Coast Guard and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

On the water, the group will collaborate to enforce boating and watercraft violations, ensure the legal and safe operation of watercraft, and prevent trespassing and littering on islands and beaches along the Merrimack River. On land, the Task Force will enforce parking rules and regulations, and deter general criminal activity, with a focus on boat ramps.

In Massachusetts, operating any vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited. Boaters are also prohibited from operating within 150 feet of public or private swimming areas. All boaters are urged to operate their vessels at reasonable speeds based upon existing conditions, including traffic density, weather, and visibility. For inland waters, operating at a speed greater than 45 mph is considered excessive.