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November 7, 2007

DNR urges caution on SC waterways due to drought

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division urges boaters to go slow and use caution in lower-than-normal waterways in the Palmetto State.

Although hazards exist in lakes and rivers at any water elevation, current drought conditions have caused the exposure of even more underwater obstructions. A boater familiar with a specific lake may find new hazards during low water levels that previously was not exposed and may be unmarked. Boaters should also be cautious of floating logs or other objects that may show up in what is considered open water. Boaters should also monitor water levels in connecting channels, as well as access to docks, boat lifts, boat ramps, etc.

"Boaters should use extreme caution now that we’re seeing lower water levels," said S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Col. Alvin Taylor. "Also a hazard marker may not indicate the exact spot of a navigational hazard, but could be for a larger area such as shoals. Stay away from hazard markers and always wear your life jacket."

Contact DNR Lt. Gary Sullivan at (843) 953-9378 for more information on navigation hazards. You can also access the South Carolina Boating Laws and Responsibilities handbook online.

"Slow down, stay alert and proceed with caution. Stay in and around familiar waters and areas," said Lt. Jimmy Wagers, DNR state coordinator of the hunter and boater education program. “With the water levels this low you should limit boating to daylight hours when possible. Use depth finders and always file a float plan by telling someone where you're going and when you plan to return." Boaters under 16 years of age are required by law to pass an approved boater education course before operating, without supervision, a personal watercraft (jet ski) or a boat powered by 15 hp motor or more. Call 1-800-830-2268 for more information on boater education courses.

Drought conditions have continued to deteriorate with significant impacts to most of the streams, lakes, and groundwater. According to the DNR Hydrology office, rivers in the Pee Dee Basin responded to recent heavy rains, which helped to temporarily stabilize flows.  However, without continued rainfall the flows will quickly decline to below normal levels. Elsewhere in the state recent rainfall amounts were generally less than 1" resulting in only minimal flow increases. The deficit is as much as 16 inches in some locations, while many areas experienced the driest ever July to September. State and local representatives from the South Carolina Drought Response Committee upgraded the drought level to severe for all counties except Beaufort and Jasper on Sept. 5. 

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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