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Agencies team up to bolster patrols

Profile image for By Megan Gray-Hatfield
By Megan Gray-Hatfield

Denton County agencies are partnering up to enforce boating safety at area lakes this Independence Day.

Game Warden Daron Blackerby said an estimated 1,000 boats will be out on Lewisville Lake during this holiday weekend, and with extra boats, more patrolling is needed.

“We will have two outside wardens come in to help, keeping us at four to six on the lake at all times,” he said.

Crews from the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, police and fire departments from The Colony, Little Elm and Lewisville and the U.S. Corps of Engineers will be patrolling the lake.

Officials said this holiday weekend’s Safe Lake Program will include stopping anyone thought to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. During Memorial Day weekend, the program made 52 stops during the three-day period, according to sheriff’s officials.

Blackerby said random water safety checks of boats out on the water will be conducted throughout the weekend.

“Any child under the age of 13 is required to have a life jacket on while in motion,” he said. “It’s the law. Even if you are older than 13, I recommend that you wear a jacket while on the water to stay safe.”

Officials said that during the stops, law enforcement may also have boaters show proof that the boat is equipped with both a life jacket and throw cushion, as well as a sound-producing device, fire extinguisher and registration card.

Blackerby said lake traffic hasn’t been as heavy as it could be in Denton County this season. He thought it might be because lake levels are lower than usual.

“People still come out, though,” he said. “They get stuck on a sand dune and push right off and continue out on the water.”

As of Thursday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported Ray Roberts Lake at 623.53 feet above sea level, compared to its normal level of 632.50 feet. Lewisville Lake is currently at 514.06 feet, with a normal level of 522 feet.

The recent rains weren’t much help to Denton County lakes, Blackerby said.

“We need more rain north and west to get our lakes back up, and we haven’t got that yet,” he said.

The low levels have caused boat ramps at Doe Branch Access, Hickory Creek Park and Big Sandy Access to close at Lewisville Lake, according to the Corps of Engineers website.

With crowds likely at the lakes, officials are asking boaters and swimmers to be mindful of others.

“Wear your life jacket and stay hydrated with non-alcoholic beverages, like water or Gatorade,” Sheriff’s Deputy Johnny Peters said.

Officials said they want everyone to have fun, but overdrinking can lead to dangerous activity and even death.

Four drownings have been reported at Lewisville Lake this year, officials said.

“Just be careful of other objects and wear a life jacket if you are the least bit unsure you can swim,” Blackerby said. “None of the bodies we pulled from the lake had life jackets on this year.”

MEGAN GRAY-HATFIELD can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.