Department News

Operation Dry Water

Massachusetts Environmental Police to Participate in Annual Operation Dry Water Campaign

Nationwide Campaign Targets BUIs Over Fourth of July Weekend to Raise Public Safety Awareness


BOSTON – Ahead of the upcoming Independence Day Weekend, the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) today announced that the agency will once again participate in Operation Dry Water, a nationwide campaign that seeks to reduce the number of individuals boating while under the influence (BUI). Due to the busy nature of the holiday weekend when there are larger numbers of recreational boaters on the water, MEP and other public safety agencies respond to an increase in BUI related incidents. To raise awareness of the issue, state and local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard, recreational boating safety advocates, and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) participate in the annual campaign to prevent tragedies related to boating while under the influence.


“The Fourth of July offers an excellent time for us all to get outside, enjoy the water with friends and family, and celebrate the holiday; however, we all must remain responsible while boating to ensure the operator, passengers, and those around us enjoy a safe experience,” said Massachusetts Environmental Police Colonel Shaun Santos. “Importantly, the Massachusetts Environmental Police and other public safety entities will be strongly enforcing the Commonwealth’s BUI law in an effort to reduce tragic incidents from occurring.”


The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that approximately 5,265 recreational boating accidents took place in 2020, which led to the unfortunate death of 767 individuals, 3,191 injuries, and cost approximately $62.5 million of property damage. Of the 767 fatalities, 75% were caused due to drowning. Furthermore, of those who drowned, 86% were not wearing a lifejacket.


Massachusetts state law prohibits the operation of any vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Boaters are reminded that they are required to operate at headway speed within 150 feet of a swimmer, shore or moored vessel. Operators of boats are urged to operate their vessels at reasonable speeds based on existing conditions, including traffic density, weather, and visibility.


It’s important to remember that boating safety starts onshore with the development of a float plan to be shared with a friend or family member not participating in the water excursion prior to getting underway. Massachusetts law also requires all boats must contain personal floatation devices for all passengers and all passengers less than 12 years of age must be wearing a lifejacket whenever above deck.


To foster a more safe environment for boating within areas with a significant recreational presence, the Massachusetts Environmental Police and several local and federal law enforcement agencies have convened the Merrimack River Task Force, the Connecticut River Task Force, and the Lake Quinsigamond Task Force. The participating organizations work collaboratively to enforce boating and watercraft violations, ensure the legal and safe operation of watercrafts, and prevent trespassing and littering on islands and beaches. The task forces also enforce parking rules and regulations, and deter general criminal activity, with a focus on boat ramps.


These unique task forces will also play an active role in Operation Dry Water this weekend. The Merrimack River Task Force is composed of law enforcement and vessels from Lowell, Lawrence, Methuen, Chelmsford, Dracut, Tyngsboro and Andover; the Connecticut River Task Force is composed of law enforcement and vessels from Easthampton, Hadley, Northampton, South Hadley and Chicopee, and the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office; and the Lake Quinsigamond Task Force is composed of law enforcement and vessels from Shrewsbury and Worcester. The Massachusetts Environmental Police, United States Coast Guard and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation also serve on each task force.


On Thursday, July 1, 2021 Governor Charlie Baker filed legislation to increase public safety and awareness at state parks and beaches by increasing fines for swimming outside designated waterfronts across the Commonwealth. The legislation, “An Act Relative to Enhanced Enforcement of Swimming Limitations,” would increase the maximum fine to $500 for entering or swimming in any waters on DCR property that are not designated for swimming.


The Massachusetts Environmental Police is the primary agency responsible for enforcing the Commonwealth’s fish and game, boating, and off-highway vehicle laws. MEP officers, while authorized to enforce all general laws, focus on laws and regulations related to the protection of natural resources and public parks and land; boat and off-highway vehicle use; and hazardous waste disposal. MEP officers serve as stewards of the state’s natural resources, patrolling forests, parks, inland waterways, and coastal waters throughout the Commonwealth. Notably, all boating accidents must be reported to the Massachusetts Environmental Police at (800) 632-8075.