Coast Guard, local law enforcement to ensure safety on Columbia, Willamette rivers

WARRENTON, Ore. — A multi-agency safe boating operation will kick off Friday in tandem with the recreational salmon fishery opening at Columbia River Buoy 10, to ensure the safety of the waterway for all recreational and commercial boating traffic.

“Each year, the Columbia River is inundated by countless vessels and fishermen all looking to catch their share of salmon,” said Capt. Sean MacKenzie, deputy commander, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “We encourage all boaters to take extra time and precautions to ensure they are prepared for any potential emergency while on the water.”

During the month long operation, the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, working in conjunction with multiple state and local agencies, will patrol the waters of the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

Agency representatives will also provide education for safe operations on the water, required safety equipment, and federal and state fishery regulations. Federal and state assets will culminate outreach efforts at local boat ramps and marinas during the fishery with Operation Make Way.

The operation is a joint recreational boater education and enforcement campaign designed to help boaters understand the need to give way and stay clear of commercial deep draft vessels, which are only able to transit safely within the marked navigational channel.

During both operations, agency personnel will enforce all federal and state laws. Violations, including failure to stay clear of transiting commercial deep draft vessels, boating under the influence and illegal passenger vessel operations could result in civil penalties or other law enforcement actions.

The Coast Guard reminds boaters that passenger vessels should be outfitted with proper lifesaving and firefighting equipment, an emergency checklist, and passengers must receive a safety orientation from the master or crew upon departure from the dock. All members aboard a boat must have a life jacket available, and any child under the age of 13, must be wearing a life jacket while on the open decks of a vessel.

If you observe or have knowledge of a vessel operating out of compliance with the above requirements, please contact the Coast Guard Sector Columbia River command center at 503-861-6211 or on marine VHF-FM radio channel 16.

Participating agencies in include Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division, the sheriff offices of Clatsop, Multnomah, Columbia, Tillamook, Washington, and Clackamas, Oregon, County Sheriff’s Offices and Clark and Cowlitz, Washington.

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