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Officers to have enhanced presence for BUI enforcement on Fourth of July

A warning to boaters operating impaired during the Fourth of July weekend: Nebraska conservation officers will be watching.

Operation Dry Water, a national heightened awareness and enforcement campaign focused on reducing the number of alcohol- and drug-related incidents and deaths, is July 4-6.

For those days, Nebraska Game and Parks conservation officers will have an enhanced presence on waters across the state, targeting impaired boat operators. Their goal will be to raise awareness and to foster a stronger, more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water through enforcement.

Fourth of July is a holiday known for increased boaters on the water where alcohol use is prevalent and a higher number of boating incidents and fatalities, according to Operate Dry Water.

“A bad decision to drink while operating a boat can change a life – or several. That’s why we’re trying to keep the waters as safe as possible so families can enjoy the holiday,” said Jeff Clauson, Game and Parks’ law enforcement administrator. “Enjoy the water with family and friends safely – and responsibly.”

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor to fatal boating incidents. Just like on land, alcohol use impairs judgment, balance, vision, reaction time and can increase fatigue. Sun, wind, noise, and motion — stressors coming during boating — also intensify the side effects of alcohol and drugs.

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating incidents. Where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 16% of deaths according to U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics 2021.

Since the inception of Operation Dry Water in 2009, law enforcement officers have removed 6,869 BUI operators from the nation’s waterways and contacted more than 2.8 million boaters during the annual three-day weekend.

In Nebraska, it is unlawful to operate a motorboat with a blood alcohol level content of .08 % or greater. Doing so constitutes BUI, which carries penalties such as vessel impoundment, fines, jail time and loss of boating privileges.

In 2023, 488 local, state, and federal agencies participated in Operation Dry Water. Over the three-day weekend, officers contacted 302,146 boaters, made 717 BUI arrests, and issued 42,822 citations and warnings for safety violations.

Operation Dry Water is a joint program of Game and Parks, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Find more information on the national effort at

Other boat safety reminders

In addition to recreating responsibly, Game and Parks offers these boat safety reminders:

  • Have all required boating safety equipment on your vessel, including life jackets or U.S. Coast Guard-approved floatation devices, lights, a fire extinguisher, horn, bailing bucket and an orange flag if pulling skiers and tubers.
  • Children aged 12 and younger and anyone riding or operating a personal watercraft or being pulled on a towable must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Anyone operating a motorboat or personal watercraft must be at least 14 years old.
  • Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1985, must complete a boater safety course, which can be taken at, search for “boater education.”

For more information on boating rules and requirements, read the 2024 Boating Guide at

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at or 402-471-5008.

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