Department of Natural Resources focusing on water safety over the holiday

If the local rivers or Lake Allatoona are in your plans for the Independence Day weekend, you can expect to see a heavy law enforcement presence for safety’s sake.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have 17 personnel on Allatoona at any given time for the rest of the long weekend through Tuesday, while the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will have as many as five rangers out on the lake.

Deputies from both the Cherokee County and Bartow County sheriff’s offices will also be assisting on the lake.

“This is obviously the biggest weekend of the year when it comes to water related activities — whether it is on area lakes or rivers,” said Sgt. Jason Roberson with the Georgia DNR. “The No. 1 cause of boating fatalities would be operating with improper lights and, number two, boating under the influence.”

As it relates to lights, all motorized vessels need a white light that is visible from all sides. Red and green bow lights are also required to help other boaters determine direction of travel.

“With the economy picking up and gas prices down, boating activity is on the increase,” Roberson said.

Cpl. Shawn Elmore, a DNR ranger, said kids without life vests on is one of the most frequent reasons for rangers to stop a boat.

“Then we look for alcohol or any signs of impairment,” Elmore said.

When it comes to the increased amount of activity on both the Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers, Elmore said, life jackets are a must.

“Anybody that floats the river, whether they’re in a tube, a kayak, a canoe. If they put an air mattress in the water and use it to float down the river — everybody is required to have a life jacket with them. If they are under the age of 13, they are required to have the life jacket on at all times,” Elmore said.

Roberson said people who swim in the lake or rivers should do so with a life jacket or swim with a buddy.

“Don’t dive into the water, you don’t know what’s underneath it,” Roberson said.

Purvis encourages boaters who plan to visit Allatoona to get to the various boat launches as early as possible.

“As soon as our parking fills we close the areas,” Purvis said. “When we have to turn people around they’re not happy, but we have no place to put them.”

Speaking of no place to put them, Purvis also said that all of the Corps’ sponsored camping sites at Allatoona — close to 600 — are reserved all the way through the following weekend of July 8-9.