DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Okaloosa County waters will be full with patrol officers for the July 4 holiday weekend, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Law Enforcement said 10 to12 patrol vessels will be on the water at any given time over the three-day period.
FWC held a press conference at the United States Coast Guard Destin Station off Miracle Strip Parkway on Okaloosa Island. Alongside the USCG and Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, FWC said they want people to celebrate Independence Day, and have fun, but have a plan.
The departments will be looking for safety violations and speeding in idle or no-wake zones. Those under 6 years old must wear a life jacket at all times if the boat is less than 26 feet long.
Upon closer inspection, officers will search for signs of intoxication to ensure safe waterways.
The joint effort is part of the national movement Operation Dry Water. The operations is meant to reduce fatalities and boating accidents during the holiday weekend.
FWC said there have already been more water fatalities in 2022 than 2021 with six as of June 29. In July of 2021, FWC reported 76 accidents with 53 injuries, two fatalities for the year and more than $1 million in damage.
OCSO said hot spots for patrols are Crab Island, the Santa Rosa Sound and local bayous. The Marine division said 2022 is a record year for boaters on local waterways.
FWC encourages others on the water to report intoxicated boaters or unsafe passengers. There is an app or anonymous tips can be left by calling 1-888-404-FWCC. The department rewards $250 to $5600 if a tip leads to an arrest.
More boating and jet ski rules are available on the Okaloosa County webpage.
FWC said including Walton, Escambia and Santa Rosa County, the department has worked 35 accidents and six fatalities.