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Vicksburg District reminds recreation site visitors to take precautions for a safe Fourth of July weekend

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District
Published July 2, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District reminds recreation site visitors across Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana to practice safety throughout the Fourth of July weekend.

Recreation sites across the region will host special events during the holiday weekend. In Arkansas, fireworks shows will be held at Lake Ouachita July 3 and 4 and Lake Greeson July 3. In Mississippi, a fireworks show will be held at Sardis Lake July 4.

The following are general safety measures that visitors should use while enjoying district recreation sites this holiday weekend and beyond.
Wear a life jacket.

Wear a life jacket at all times while boating, swimming or engaging in water activities. According to the USACE National Operations Center for Water Safety, nearly 90% of all water-related fatalities at public facilities involved people who were not wearing life jackets. 

Life jackets vary by buoyancy, intended activity, and material, as well as the user’s age and weight. Follow U.S. Coast Guard guidelines for usage and carry at least one wearable life jacket for every person on board. Always test the life jacket’s fit before departure and properly stow when not in use. Become familiar with state and local lake requirements regarding life jacket wear before visiting the area. For a full list of USCG guidelines for life jackets, as well as detailed definitions, visit https://www.uscgboating.org/images/420.PDF.

Watch children to prevent drowning and accidents.

Children should be under adult supervision at all times during any activities on or near the water. Ensure children are properly equipped with life jackets and establish short rest periods to prevent overexertion or fatigue. 
Inspect the boat prior to launch.

Ensure the vessel is in good working order and equipped for both regular use and emergencies. Test all required equipment, such as fire extinguishers, life jackets and navigation lights. Passengers should know where to locate and how to use critical items such as visual distress signals, first aid kits and fenders. Do not launch the boat if there is any damage to crucial external areas like motors, propellers or hulls. Use caution and do not launch the boat if there are leaks or odors from gas caps, outboard motors or onboard engines.  

Always be familiar with state and individual lake requirements for vessel equipment, hardware and before going on the water. A full list of USCG minimum equipment requirements can be found at the following link: https://www.uscgboating.org/images/420.PDF.

Never overload a boat.

Overloaded boats are more likely to capsize in rough conditions, and increased weight hinders a boat’s proper performance on the water. Vessels are individually rated for passenger seating, overall weight and towing capacity. The overall weight limit includes the weight of all passengers (crew), as well as any gear and equipment on board. Check the mounted manufacturer’s plate or operator’s manual to determine the maximum capacity in persons and pounds.

Ensure all passengers are secure while traveling to and from boat ramps.

Never allow anyone to ride in the back of a pickup truck or inside the boat while towing. This may seem like a harmless transportation method, but unsecured passengers increase the risk of accident for the driver and can sustain serious injury as a result. Make a second trip to the boat ramp if not all passengers can fit in the towing vehicle. 
Display navigation lights while boating between sunset and sunrise.

Vessels must follow U.S. Coast Guard navigation light regulations at all times, regardless of length, power source or anchored status. Following these rules prevents collision during times of low visibility, especially in high traffic areas or open water. 

Common light configurations include red and green port and starboard lights at the bow (front), and a white light at the stern (rear) of the vessel. Proper lights are clearly marked “USCG Approval 33 CFR 183.810” and include testing information on the light or its packaging. Lights without these certifications do not meet rigorous testing standards and should not be used. The full list of requirements, definitions and exceptions can be found in USCG’s Rules of the Road at https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=NavRulesAmalgamated. 

Do not swim or operate a boat under the influence.

Alcohol and drugs severely inhibit the critical thinking and decision-making skills needed to operate a vessel, including judging submerged dangers, water depth and maintaining awareness of other boaters. Common boating environment conditions—such as heat, wind, noise, motion and vibration—are also intensified. Boating under the influence results in slower reaction times, and puts all passengers at risk of accident or injury. Non-motorized vessels and experienced operators are not immune to these risks.

Swimming or engaging in waterskiing, tubing or other water activities while under the influence limits motor skills, perception and overall judgment, which can result in drowning, serious injury or death.

Keep at least six feet from other visitors.

Boat ramps, day use and other recreation areas are potentially high traffic areas, and maintaining a safe social distance between oneself and others helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. All visitors to USACE recreation areas are encouraged to stay home if they have experienced fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, or recently felt unwell. Visitors must also adhere to any other mandates issued by local, state and federal officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the nation’s largest federal provider of water-based recreation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) strives to promote safety in the great outdoors. For more information on USACE’s commitment to water safety, visit https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Recreation/Water-Safety/.

The USACE Vicksburg District owns and operates more than 100 recreation areas across Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana where millions of visitors enjoy fishing, camping, hunting, boating, hiking, swimming, geocaching and more every year. The district’s 10 flood control reservoirs across Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana provide numerous benefits to the region, including flood risk management, hydropower, water supply, wildlife management and recreation.

The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The district is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.


Anna Owens

Release no. 20-054