Brazos River Authority has posted signs at public boat launches with safety information. (Mark Engebretson)
Vacationers to Possum Kingdom Lake can enjoy a safe Independence Day holiday by adhering to safety guidelines and laws while boating and camping.
There are certain requirements for boat and watercraft operators on Brazos River Authority lakes, and BRA chief information officer Judi Pierce cautioned operators to be mindful of the rules and exercise caution. BRA lake rangers are charged with enforcing the rules and regulations on BRA land and lakes. Officers will be looking for violations over the holiday.
"While open containers of alcohol are allowed on boats in Texas, boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is unsafe and illegal," noted Pierce.
According to the Coast Guard, in 2012, alcohol was a contributing factor in 17 percent of the nation's boating fatalities.
Also, boat operators should be watchful of swimmers and avoid approaching designated swimming areas. When the lake level is low, use caution to avoid sand bars, stumps and other hazards that might be just under the surface. Operate near the center of the channel when the lake is down.
"Take a usable cell phone and let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return in case of an emergency," Pierce added.
According to BRA, all boats must be equipped with a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. One life jacket must be readily accessible for each person on the boat as well as a throwable life preserver approved by the Coast Guard. Each watercraft should have a working Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher or system appropriate for the size of the vessel, a sound producing device and navigational lights after sunset.
Anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993, must take a state-approved boater-education course before operating a personal watercraft, any vessel over 15 horsepower or any wind-blown vessel longer than 14 feet. They must have with them a copy of the card showing they passed the class and they must have picture identification. Children under 13 are specifically prohibited from operating a PWC unless accompanied on board by a person at least 18 years of age who can lawfully operate the PWC.
All-terrain vehicles, four-wheelers or other motor vehicles are not allowed on the beaches at BRA public areas or on lake bed exposed by lower water levels. Also, although the lake bed looks dry in many areas, it could be deceiving. Heavier vehicles attempting to drive on the lake bed may find that only the top few inches are dry and the sand underneath is very wet. Vehicles could become stuck and require towing to return to dry land.
The threat of wildfire is ever-present with the extreme drought conditions. Pierce suggested that campers should use care with any outdoor cooking and remember to properly dispose of cigarettes. There is currently a burn ban in effect.