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Old 08-05-2008   #1
I'm wrong 50% of the time
brendodendo's Avatar
RFV, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1977
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Wider net cast for boozing on water

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The consequences of boating with a buzz got tougher in Colorado Tuesday.

It now could be illegal to split a bottle of wine while drifting with your loved one in a canoe on a placid lake. It’s illegal to drink one too many then scream off on a jet ski. Even raft operators on a float down river must watch what they drink.

Colorado’s law on boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI) was expanded to include all “vessels” as of Aug. 5. The old law applied BUI only to operators of motor boats and sailboats. Now it affects operators of rafts, kayaks, canoes, jet skis and even paddle boats, said Brian Sandy, boating safety specialist with Colorado State Parks.

In addition, the threshold level to be considered intoxicated was lowered from a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 to 0.08, putting it in line with DUI levels for motor vehicles.

The Legislature passed the tougher BUI law last session. Gov. Bill Ritter signed the bill in April, and it went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

The wording of the bill is ambiguous about who could be held accountable in a raft or canoe. The law says it is illegal for anyone under the influence of alcohol “to operate or be in actual physical control of a vessel.” While the person at the back of the craft is often regarded as the person in control, the wording doesn’t necessarily exclude other paddlers.

“That’s something that’s going to be tested here,” Sandy predicted. There are usually test cases for new laws, he noted.

The new law applies to all waterways — rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs — across the state.

“Any officer in the state of Colorado can enforce that law,” Sandy said. “State Parks will pursue BUIs as aggressively as possible.”

The state agency’s law enforcement officers can and do patrol bodies of water that aren’t state parks, including Ruedi Reservoir east of Basalt. Ruedi is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, but the federal agency doesn’t patrol the water by boat. The reservoir is located in both Eagle and Pitkin counties, but neither county sheriff’s office has water patrol.

“We have no ability to go out and patrol Ruedi,” said Pitkin County Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo. The new law won’t result in the sheriff’s office spending more time on the country’s waterways, be it in Ruedi or the Roaring Fork River, he said.

“It’s not that we don’t think it’s an issue. What are we going to do, go up and down the river in a kayak?” DiSalvo said.

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service also has jurisdiction at Ruedi, but it is trading in its boat for snowmobiles, a staffer noted.

Sandy said his patrol team at Colorado State Parks typically visits Ruedi Reservoir once or twice a summer. Nothing stands out about the reservoir as far as having more or fewer infractions than encountered at other waterways in the state, he said.

The state parks’ enforcement team typically issues about 25 BUI tickets per year, Sandy said. That number could conceivably increase now that the threshold level decreased.

The agency’s website says about 1,000 people die nationwide in boating accident each year. About 50 percent of the accidents are deemed alcohol-related.

The penalties for BUI in Colorado can involve jail time, a fine or both. The sentence can range from five to 180 days in jail and a fine of between $200 and $1,000. In addition, 96 hours of community service is mandatory in most cases. A person also loses privileges to operate a boat for three months, for a first offense, and one year for a second offense.

Sandy said a BUI conviction doesn’t impact a motor vehicle license.

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Old 08-05-2008   #2
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Can an innertube be considered a raft?

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Old 08-05-2008   #3
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Old 08-05-2008   #4
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While my first reaction is WTF?, I'm not sure I'm really that concerned about this being enforced anywhere that I will be. I can't really see a park ranger motoring up on day 2 of Cat and giving you a ticket for drinking. Talk about a way to rack up some negative river karma. Also, the ticket is for the person in control of the vessel. So if I'm not "in control" of my kayak at the time, I'm innocent, right?

"The world would be a better place if everyone kayaked."-Brad Ludden (Valhalla)
"You only get one chance to run a drop blind."-DD
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Old 08-05-2008   #5
Join Date: Feb 2004
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This does look like it may have an impact on rivers with a bigger Ranger presence like the Arkansas. Those guys love to give lots of parking tickets and harass you at put ins and take outs already.
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Old 08-05-2008   #6
Join Date: Feb 2006
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The world is really starting to suck. I mean it was sucking before, but this is really adding to the overall suckiness of the whole thing. I can understand if there was any chance of my canoe or raft for that matter coliding into an innocent bystander and killing them like a car, but that is not the case here. Fuck the man on this one thats for sure.
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Old 08-05-2008   #7
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Eastern Slope, Colorado
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Originally Posted by EZ View Post
This does look like it may have an impact on rivers with a bigger Ranger presence like the Arkansas. Those guys love to give lots of parking tickets and harass you at put ins and take outs already.
In my experience they are pretty chill. I have "forgotten" to pay more times than I can count and I always get a warning. One of the rangers even paddled up to us chiefing some glaucoma medicine on private property the other day and kindly let us finish before me moved on!

I seriously doubt that the Ark rangers will be too strict on this one.

How would they identify you as drunk anyway? Hitting rocks? Swerving? As far as they know I'm just a lousy boater with a good old fashioned Mormon Pepsi in my koozie!
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Old 08-05-2008   #8
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Boulder, Colorado
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ANyone know where Utah stands on the matter?

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Old 08-05-2008   #9
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Durango, Colorado
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I think you're allowed to drink 3.2 on the water... as long as you have at least three wives and you are appropriately dressed. Order clothing online at: FLDS Dress

Originally Posted by Dave Frank View Post
ANyone know where Utah stands on the matter?
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Old 08-05-2008   #10
Boy Howdy!
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Colotucky, USA
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Great the fun police must of lost their ass hamsters and now want to take it out on us, what am I going to do with that keg of busch light now?

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