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Sheriff’s boat patrol pumps up boating division on weekends
boat patrol

With the temperature expected to approach 100 degrees within the next few weeks, more and more people will be heading out on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to enjoy the water.

And the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department will be out in full force ensuring that people stay safe while having a good time.

While the sheriff’s department boating unit enjoyed a relatively quiet Memorial Day weekend thanks to cooler than normal temperatures that kept most people off of the water, the team is expecting crowds this weekend.

With six full-time deputies and a sergeant assigned to the boating unit and between 8 and 10 deputies working on the weekends, the sheriff’s office remains dedicated to enforcing California’s boating laws – especially laws that restrict boaters from operating vessels while under the influence.

“We want people to have a good time but be safe while doing it,” said Sgt. Jose Alemon – the supervisor of the unit. “The first thing people need to remember is to have their safety accessories – personal flotation devices are a must, as is having a sober driver.”

Despite the low traffic volume over the holiday weekend, deputies still wrote nine citations and arrested three people for boating while intoxicated in addition to seeing a number of others violating the laws.
According to Alemon, a common violation that deputies have been seeing are people that don’t observe the “blue light law” – a statute that requires anybody operating a vessel that sees a police watercraft with its lights on to slow down to steerage speed only and eliminate any and all wake that the vessel may be creating. The law, Alemon said, is to ensure the safety of everybody on the waterway – heavy wake while attempting to board a vessel can be dangerous for officers and create situations that could easily be avoided by slowing to the legal speed.

Deputies will also be enforcing California’s new law that requires boaters 25 years of age or younger to have a valid California boat operator card – which requires a boater safety education course. While the law originally only applied to boaters 20 years of age or younger when it went into effect last year, the threshold has been raised for 2019 and will continue to increase in subsequent years until it applies to all people operating motorized boats on California waterways.

And even though the temperature outside will he hot starting next week, the water more than likely won’t be.

As California’s record snowpack continues to melt, dam operators throughout Northern California are continuing to release large quantities of water to make room in reservoirs, and that means that the San Joaquin River and its subsequent arms will be flowing very quickly and with cold water – something that recreational boaters need to take into consideration. According to Alemon, that is especially true along the Mokelumne River all the way up to Clements where operators from the East Bay Municipal Utilities District will be discharging 2900 cubic feet per second of water.

Discharges from Don Pedro reservoir and New Melones Reservoir are also expected flows on the Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers, respectively – both of which flow into the San Joaquin River before Lathrop.

For additional information about California’s boating laws or updates on new regulations or advisements, visit the State of California’s Department of Boating and Waterways website at

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.