by Alex Forster, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Department of Natural Resources plans to step up its patrol of Minnesota's lakes and rivers this weekend heading into the Fourth of July.
The patrols are part of a national crackdown that has law officers from various agencies on the lookout for boaters under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Boaters this weekend should be cautious on the water, said Greg Salo, captain of the DNRs Enforcement Division.
"We encourage anybody out there that sees anything suspicious, or that sees anybody operating a boat in a careless manner, call 911," Salo said. "That's what we're there for."
Salo said officers will be active on Minnesota's lakes and rivers.
"Several law enforcement agencies across the entire state, not just in the metro, are going to be out this weekend enforcing our BUI laws, or boating under the influence laws," he said. "We have zero tolerance for anybody that's operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs."
The DNR says impaired boating is one of the leading factors for boating accidents and injuries in Minnesota. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 33 percent of the deadly boating accidents in Minnesota last year.
The maximum blood alcohol level for operating a boat in Minnesota is the same as the legal limit for driving a car. The penalties are similar to those for DUI, Salo said, adding that nearly a quarter of all alcohol-related boating arrests last year happened over the Fourth of July.
Last year, 158 people were arrested for boating while intoxicated in Minnesota, mostly in Hennepin County.
Boaters should also be aware that the DNR was reporting high water levels and fast currents, he said. The agency is already enforcing a no-wake zone on the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls to Prescott, which may be in effect until the middle of next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.