Lake Tahoe’s waters rippled with thousands of boat wakes throughout the week, but officers in patrol vessels said few incidents were reported.
“There was certainly a whole lot of boat activity,” said Les Lovell, a marine officer with El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. “But I will say, compared to year’s past, [Fourth of July] night was really mild. Folks were really cooperative. We didn’t have one reported boat accident.”
The weeks surrounding Fourth of July are typically the busiest time for boaters on the lake. Law enforcement and Coast Guard officials patrol the waters to ensure that the public remains safe on the water.
Lovell estimated more than 1,000 boats gathered for the annual Fourth of July fireworks. After the show is over, the menagerie of watercraft head in all directions. The scene is always chaotic and can be dangerous, said South Shore Coast Guard Auxillary member Victor Beelik.
“That is always a crazy situation,” Beelik said. “Amazingly enough very few accidents happened. Mostly what we have are people running out of gas or unable to get their engine started.”
El Dorado County Sheriff’s marine officers had a busier afternoon dealing with drunk beachgoers at Ski Beach, just west of Pope Beach, than they did after dark on July 4, Lovell said. Still, though there were a few arrests for drunken and disorderly conduct, there were no major incidents.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of boats on the water and people up here, but we haven’t had any major things happen,” said Lt. Pete Van Arnum of the El Dorado County Sheriffs Office.
Dangerous situations can arise quickly though, Lovell said. With a lot of inexperienced boaters on the water and lower water levels than normal, there have been a few accidents and boaters should always be aware, he added.
“We’re seeing a lot of boats into the rocks, especially in Emerald Bay,” he said. “Fortunately, we’ve only had a couple of significant rescues this year.”
One of those was the rescue of nine individuals from a capsized vessel near Dollar Point in late May, he said.
In addition to the sheriffs and Coast Guard, other agencies are tackling problems on the water.
South Lake Tahoe Police Department marine officers participated in Operation Dry Water, an annual nationwide effort to curb boating under the influence, June 28-30. The officers inspected 25 vessels over the weekend. There were no arrests and only a single citation issued for lack of a personal flotation device, said city spokeswoman Tracy Franklin.
Marine officers from El Dorado County Sheriffs Office, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxilliary will continue to patrol Lake Tahoe throughout the summer. Safety is their No. 1 concern, Van Arnum said.
“They’re just out there trying to keep everybody safe, slowing them down, making sure they have the right safety equipment and that they’re not intoxicated,” he said.