Kenai River boating safety to be addressed

Posted: Tuesday, January 08, 2008

While many Alaskans utilize boats for fun or to make a living by fishing, guiding, or transporting tourists, there are many dangers to being on the icy and often turbulent waters of the North but the state is working toward improving safety for boaters, specifically those taking to the Kenai River.

"An Alaska Boater's Handbook supplement is in the works for the Kenai River," said Joe McCullough, educational coordinator with the Alaska Office of Boating Safety in Anchorage.

The Alaska Boater's Handbook is roughly 80 pages in length and has had two supplements, each roughly 40 pages, already created for the Prince William Sound and Kachemak Bay areas. The Kenai River supplement is expected to be around the same length.

"It's not going to be a tourist magazine. It's not going to be about where to fish and what tackle to use. It's going to be specifically about boating safety," McCullough said.

McCullough added that the supplement is being created out of demand from the public, but also it is an effort by the state to curb the high rate of boating related accidents and fatalities across Alaska.

"Alaska is 10 times the national average for boating accidents, and we're really trying to address the high rate of drowning," he said.

Topics that the supplement will cover include underwater hazards and other things that are dangerous, infrastructure and services of the river, and rules of the river, such as passing other boats on the river and using sound signals, McCullough said.

"We'll also have a map in it that we are hoping will be one of the best ones ever put out," he added.

The handbooks and supplements will likely be available at locations where fishing licenses are sold, visitors centers and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

"There will be 50,000 handbooks printed and more made to meet any demand beyond that number," McCullough said.

Handbooks will also be amended whenever needed, since McCullough is interested in public information relevant to Kenai River boating safety.

"If someone wants to submit something, I'd love to get it. We'll take submission describing specific areas of the river and how to navigate them, resources available to boaters such as private launches, and we would also like to have information on paddling or canoeing the Kenai River," he said.

Information can be sent to: Joe McCullough, 550 W. 7th Avenue, Suite 1380, Anchorage, Alaska 99501.

"I'd like to have submissions by Jan. 18, so I can get them to the printer by the end of February and have them out by spring," he said.

McCullough added that this handbook is not the only resource for those interested in learning about safety on the water. Several courses, books and videos are also available through the state including: Alaska Water Wise Courses, Cold Water Immersion presentations, and Kids Don't Float program information, just to name a few.

For more information on the Office of Boating Safety, visit their Web site at http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/boating/.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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