With stay-at-home orders being lifted, school ending early, and summer here, the number of boats on Lake Conroe waters increases every single day.  The lake level is bobbing at 200 feet above mean sea level (msl), which is one foot down from the conservation pool level of 201 feet msl.  As always, with any level, there is the need to keep an eye out for water hazards.  With the start of boating season, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) wants to remind boaters of some basic water safety rules.

Know who can operate a boat.  Any person who is at least 13 years of age and born after September 1, 1993, must complete an approved Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) boater education course before jumping in the driver’s seat.  A person less than 13 years of age is only permitted to operate personal water craft (PWC) vessels with motors of less than 15 horsepower and sailboats less than 14 feet in length when accompanied on board by a person who is 18 years of age or older.

Have the proper safety equipment.    All personal flotation devices (PFDs) must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition, readily accessible, and of the appropriate size for the intended user.  All children under 13 years of age in motorboats that are under 26 feet in length must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD while underway.  Put on your flotation device and make sure it fits properly before you enter the water.  When already in the water, buoyancy, stress and anxiety of the moment can put you in danger.  Check your flotation fit before you board your boat.

Fire extinguishers are another required item that is all too often forgotten.  It is essential that your fire extinguisher is accessible and charged.   When used early enough a fire extinguisher can make a huge difference and possibly save the entire boat and those onboard.  Also, extinguishers need to be checked regularly.  Don’t forget about the routine maintenance.

Drive safe.  Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.  In Texas, it is illegal to operate a watercraft with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher.  The penalties for a boating while intoxicated (BWI) are the same as for driving while intoxicated (DWI):  First conviction carries a fine up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail. Second conviction carries a fine up to $4,000 and/or jail time up to one year.  Third conviction carries a fine up to $10,000 and/or 2-10 years in jail.   According to law enforcement, a person’s driver’s license will be automatically suspended if operating an engine-powered watercraft having a manufacturer’s rating of 50 horsepower or above and the person refuses to provide a specimen (breath or blood) to determine intoxication. The period of suspension for first time offenders is 180 days.

Common sense reminders:

  • Communicate to someone that is not going with you, where you plan to go and when you Plan to return
  • Take a waterproof cell phone on board with you
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers handy
  • Be aware that the conditions on the lake can, and often do, change in an instant
  • Keep a first aid kit on board
  • Bring plenty of water for every passenger

“Accidents on the lake significantly increase during the summer months,” said Lt. Tim Cade of the Montgomery County Precinct 1 Constable’s marine division.  “Since boating traffic and lake activity drastically pick up when temperatures rise, it is even more important to do your part by following safety precautions to guarantee a positive, fun, and safe trip to Lake Conroe.

Lake Conroe is a destination of choice for recreational enthusiasts from the greater Houston metropolitan area and across the State of Texas.  Of course we want to make sure it stays that way, but, most importantly, we want everyone to go home safely at the end of an outing.

You can find Lake Conroe rules and a map of the public boat ramps online at www.sjra.net/lakeconroe.  For general questions concerning state boating laws you can go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website at https://tpwd.texas.gov/.

One of the major river authorities in Texas, SJRA’s mission is to develop, conserve, and protect the water resources of the San Jacinto River basin.  Covering all or part of seven counties, the organization’s jurisdiction includes the entire San Jacinto River watershed, excluding Harris County.  For additional information on SJRA visit our website at www.sjra.net, like SJRA on Facebook @SanJacintoRiverAuthority, follow us on Twitter @SJRA_1937, find us on Instagram @sanjacintoriverauthoritySJRA, or connect with us on LinkedIn @San Jacinto River Authority.

Featured in Dock Line Magazine.