While the 2014 boating season along the Mokelumne River is at least four months away, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department is taking steps this winter to keep boaters and nearby residents safe.
Sheriff’s Lt. James Lenzi said at a Tuesday evening meeting at the Woodbridge Elks Lodge that the goal for the upcoming season is to make sure both boaters and residents are aware of the rules and regulations along the river, as well as in Lodi Lake.
Lenzi said new signage will be installed along the river next week from the Woodbridge Dam to North Guild Avenue that will limit boats to a 5 mile per hour speed limit under certain conditions.
The 5 mph speed limit will be in effect between 7 p.m. and noon the following day, as well as within 100 feet of a swimmer, within 200 feet of a swim area or vessel tied to a dock, and within 100 feet of any watercraft 16 feet or less in length, which might be seriously endangered by the wake of a passing vessel.
In addition, these new signs will inform boaters their vessels, if manufactured before 1993, cannot be louder than 90 decibels. Vessels made after 1993 cannot be louder than 88 decibels.
These signs will be placed at the Woodbridge Dam, Lodi Lake boat launches, the Rivergate neighborhood, the Mokelumne Beach RV Park, and at a launch near North Guild Avenue, Lenzi said.
Residents at Tuesday’s meeting were not only concerned with excessive speeders on the river and lake, but with noise.
Many boaters not only have loud engines, but like to play music excessively loud, according to many in attendance.
But while the noise from boat engines can easily be cited by Sheriff’s Department boat patrols, the noise of stereos falls under the jurisdiction of Lodi Police Department, because those affected by loud music are Lodi residents who live on the river.
Lenzi told those in attendance Tuesday that the Sheriff’s Department is willing to work with Lodi police when it comes to enforcing regulations both on and off the water.
“If (the two departments) can come to some sort of an agreement (the Sheriff’s Department) can cite violators under the Lodi Municipal Code,” he said. “If (the Lodi Police Department) is comfortable with it, and we see people violating a noise ordinance, then we will cite them under the Lodi ordinances.”
Lenzi said the department is planning an event called the Mokelumne Blitz, where multiple law enforcement agencies will come together to educate boaters and residents in Lodi about the new rules and regulations.
The event will include demonstrations and active patrols and citations of those who violate the posted rules.
The event will be similar to the United States Coast Guard’s Delta Blitz, which includes the Sheriff’s departments from Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Solano and Sacramento counties patrolling about 25 square miles of the Delta region.
Lenzi said no date is set in stone, but he is hoping for a pre-Memorial Day target.
“As soon as it gets hot, we want to get out there and tackle these issues to combat the noise and safety violations,” he said.
There were eight boating ordinance violations on the river in 2013, according to statistics Lenzi provided Tuesday night.
In addition, Lenzi is hoping to increase patrols to seven days a week. He said the department currently has volunteers from the Sheriff’s Team Active Retired Seniors patrolling on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Marilyn Hughes, a kayaker and docent at Lodi Lake Nature Area, said Tuesday’s meeting was a good incremental step in enforcing regulations on the river and lake.
“As we take on the responsibility of reporting more, and if some of us got involved with STARS, we’d have a good start,” she said. “But there’s still a lot more to do.”
Lenzi urged anyone who sees violators during the boating season to report them by calling 209-468-4400. More information on the Sheriff’s Boating Safety Division can be found at www.sjgov.org/sheriff/patboat.htm.