Iowa, Illinois DNR prepare for Memorial Day weekend with different rules

Le Claire, IOWA (KWQC) - As people prepare to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, the Department of Natural Resources said they’re focusing on educating and enforcing boating rules and guidelines. TV6 spoke with the Illinois and Iowa DNR about the safety guidelines and how they’re enforcing rules.

“It’s the unofficial start of the summer with Memorial Day weekend. There’s gonna be a lot of people that have been cooped up for several months...they’re gonna be out and they’re gonna try to boat,” Jeff Harrison said.

Harrison, a State Conservation Officer for Iowa DNR, said they're checking every boat to make sure they have all the proper gear needed.

“We’re gonna try to look for safety gear. Make sure that the first time out for the year that they have the appropriate safety gear. Wearable life jackets for everybody. A throw cushion. A horn whistle. A fire extinguisher,” Harrison said.

The checks also include limiting boat capacity for Iowans to 10 and under and sticking with immediate family.

“If they’re gonna have a large group ,maybe a pontoon boat, where they have you know 10,15 people that aren’t related we’re gonna address that, 'hey keep it under 10' and you know put some other people in other vessels,” Harrison said.

State conservation officers have concurrent jurisdiction. The states are divided by the center channel of the Mississippi and each side has a buoy dividing the two states. On the other side of the channel, Illinois has different rules.

Sargent Tony Petreikis, an Illinois state conservation police officer, said they’ll still be using the same protocol they've been using in recent months.

“We’re still operating under the same protocol that we’ve had for the last month and a half or two months or whatever that is and that’s two persons per boat,” Petreikis said.

As far as how they're reinforcing the rules, Petreikis said they're going to consider the circumstances.

“All of our officers are going to take the totality of the circumstances into consideration. If someone is doing something illegal and they’re intentionally breaking the law, obviously they’re going to look at that differently than if somebody doesn’t understand or doesn’t know what they’re doing is illegal,” Petreikis said. "We’re going to try to educate people when we need to and we’ll take enforcement action as we need to as well," he said.

Harrison says it’s everyone’s responsibility to do their part.

“Hopefully they’re just gonna take note and say hey, you know, we didn’t like being cooped up for two months, we’re gonna do the right thing here. It’s a little hindrance on us it's not the way we traditionally celebrate Memorial Day weekend but we’re gonna do our best and that’s all we’re hoping for,” Harrison said.

Both Iowa and Illinois DNR say they’re continuing to use education to ensure everyone is safe and knowledgeable.