Thousands of boaters venture onto Lake Havasu every year, and according to the Lake Havasu Marine Association, some of those boaters are less considerate than others.
Marine Association President Jim Salscheider said that he hopes to arrange round table discussions between the Association, state and federal agencies to address boating issues on Lake Havasu.
“There are two state agencies, as well as federal and state agencies that work in Havasu,” Salscheider said. “They don’t all use the same databases, and I’m hoping we can meet with them collectively and share data about boating on the lake. We want to try to do this in July, so we can work together and get the word out, and get more people to operate their boats responsibly.”
According to a statement this week by the Marine Association, recreation on Lake Havasu has been marred in recent weeks by a number of serious boating accidents, some of which have been reported and are under investigation by law enforcement officials. Others, the Marine Association says, have gone unreported.
The Marine Association says unsafe overtaking and passing of slower moving boats by more powerful watercraft has been a contributing factor in some of these accidents, while performance boats take unnecessary risks in narrow waterways. Other complaints by the Marine Association include the use of watercraft that produce extreme wakes, increasing the risk of a boating accidents for other operators.
“From talking to people, the numbers are up,” Salscheider said. “We need to try to fix this without adding more laws, regulations or speed limits. For some reason it’s worse this summer than last summer. Boaters need to take responsibility for their actions.”
According to local boater Dave Johnson, meetings between the Marine Association and government agencies may be detrimental to the growth of recreation on the lake.
“New laws and regulations are created by working with the government,” Johnson said. “If this is for an educational campaign, then great, but this is like bringing a fox into a henhouse.”
Johnson says that while the issue of boating safety is an important one, he believes the average number of accidents on Havasu may not be substantially greater than before.
“It seems like, for a long period of time, there are zero incidents,” Johnson said. “And then you have three in a row. This past Memorial Day weekend, it was carnage…but I think the reality of it is that the lake is no worse now than it’s ever been.”
According to Arizona Game and Fish Department Boating Law Administrator Tim Baumgarten, wake-surfing watercraft have been of particular concern to state boating agencies in recent weeks; but responsibility and liability associated with potential damage caused by those wakes are not addressed by state statutes.
“Most likely, the liability of any result would be weighed on a case-by-case basis, and may actually place equal liability on both operators,” Baumgarten said. “There has been some precedent established regarding injuries from passenger falls or impacts with vessel interiors caused by excessive wakes…these types of injuries are well-documented and the owners of the larger tour boats have been held responsible.”
The interpretation of those precedents is different on Lake Havasu, Baumgarten said. While such wakes can cause damage to moored or docked boats, watercraft tend to pass each other closely on Bridgewater Channel, where smaller vessels could be “swamped” or otherwise endangered by excessive wakes.
Among the agencies operating on Lake Havasu are AZGF and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, both of whom meet routinely with Marine Association representatives.
- Brandon Messick/ Today’s News-Herald, June 26, 2017