Treading Lightly in the Water

September 2006 News
As temperatures have risen this summer, so have trips to the country's lakes, rivers and oceans. Each year the season causes concern among some resource managers as sensitive waterways start feeling the environmental impact.

"The high density recreation use at many of our U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes requires careful stewardship of the natural resources entrusted to our agency," said Stephen Austin, acting natural resources management chief from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In response to the estimated 69 million Americans boating this year, the nonprofit organization Tread Lightly! recently released some simple ways to minimize impact on the outdoors when driving on the water.

1. Avoid traveling in shallow water. Riding in shallow water can cause your craft to suck up objects into the pump and harm the engine as well as coral, plants and animals and the bottom of waterways.

2. If you are in shallow water, travel slowly. Maneuver your craft slowly when launching and coming ashore to avoid impacting sensitive habitats and damaging your vessel.

3. Try to fill up with fuel and oil before leaving. If you do need to fill up while in the water, take every precaution not to spill. Any spills should be cleaned up immediately.

4. Never throw trash in the water. Pack out what you pack in and if possible, pick up litter left by others.

5. Launch crafts only at designated launching ramps. Backing a vehicle on a river bank or lake shoreline can damage the bank and cause erosion.

6. Be aware of the noise your craft produces and remember that sound carries further on the water. Noise complaints are one of the leading reasons authorities are called.

7. Wash your craft after every ride and be sure your jet nozzle and intake areas are clear of debris. Checking this after riding is especially important because harmful, "exotic" plants and animals like Eurasion Milfoil may spread by boat from one body of water to another.

8. Obey all posted signs, symbols and markers. These include speed limits, no-wake zones, underwater obstructions and the like.

9. When fishing, dispose of unwanted or tangled fishing line, nets and other plastic items properly as they can be lethal to fish, marine mammals, birds and reptiles.

10. Know the fishing regulations including the limits and legal length of the fish you intend to catch. Return undersized, oversized or unwanted fish to the water as soon as possible.

"For many years, the Corps has embraced the principles of Tread Lightly! to help meet our management objective of conserving natural resources, consistent with eco-system principles, while providing quality public outdoor recreation experiences for present and future generations," said Austin.

Additional tips for responsible boating, personal watercraft use and fishing are available on Tread Lightly!'s website at or by calling 1-800-966-9900.
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