Warmer weather and higher water levels lured big Memorial Day crowds to Thurmond Lake, where state rangers reported relatively few problems.
“Overall, I’d have to say it’s been a relatively calm weekend,” said Law Enforcement Sgt. Doyte Chaffin of Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division.
The reservoir – less than a foot from its full pool – is 7.75 feet higher than this time last year, which might have contributed to more visitors.
Georgia authorities were out on lakes statewide enforcing new laws that include stricter blood alcohol limits for boaters and expanded life preserver rules.
Under a law signed recently by Gov. Nathan Deal, the legal limit for boating under the influence changed from 0.10 to 0.08, equalizing boating legal limits to driving legal limits.
During the weekend, authorities made seven boating under the influence charges throughout the Region III area that includes lakes Oconee, Russell and Thurmond and the lower Savannah River.
Two of those cases were made at Thurmond Lake, Chaffin said.
“I think the word got about pretty good as far as people knowing about it,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of designated drivers, and we like that, obviously.”
Life preservers are now mandatory for children under 13. Previous rules required them for children under 10. Chaffin said most children he encountered were wearing their life jackets.
Officials were also enforcing the “100-foot law,” that requires all boats and personal watercraft to slow to idle speed when they are within 100 feet of docks, piers, bridges, shorelines or people in the water.
“We’ve had some complaints” about jet skis and the 100-foot rule this weekend, Chaffin said, noting that state rangers have been assisted by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, whose boat unit has also been patrolling the busiest waters during the long weekend.
Statewide, authorities reported 24 boating under the influence arrests, including the seven in Region III.