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Valley News Dispatch

Boaters advised not to drink and kayak on Kiski River

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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
A private watercraft cruises the Ohio River.
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Leif Greiss | Tribune-Review
Richard Matusiak, shift manager at River's Edge Canoe & Kayak in Gilpin, said customers' safety is a top concern for the business. He is shown at River's Edge on Monday, July 31, 2017.

A Kiski Valley canoe and kayak vendor is advising boaters to be responsible, now that the state Fish & Boat Commission is patrolling the Kiski River for those operating watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances.

The River’s Edge Canoe & Kayak in Gilpin issued the advisory on its Facebook page.

Richard Matusiak, shift manager at the business, said boating under the influence hasn’t been an issue this summer.

River’s Edge put a notice on its website earlier this year forbidding alcohol in shuttle vans or any of its rented boats or equipment, he said, and since then, problems have “decreased considerably.”

Matusiak said the business used to have several incidents per summer but hasn’t had a single problem this year.

The Kiski is very popular for paddling, and waterways conservation officers patrol it on a regular basis, said Rick Levis, a spokesman for the Fish & Boat Commission.

Matusiak said allowing boaters to drink puts them at risk of drowning and that the safety of its customers is a top concern for River’s Edge.

“If we saw them drinking, we would discourage them from drinking, and if they continued, we’d discourage them from coming back,” MatĀ­usiak said.

According to the Fish & Boat Commission, alcohol was a contributing factor in six of the 11 fatal boating accidents that occurred in the state in 2016.

The blood-alcohol limit for boating under the influence in Pennsylvania is the same as for driving, 0.08 percent, and applies whether a boat is powered or unpowered, such as kayaks and canoes.

As of June 27, conservation officers had arrested 14 people for boating under the influence. In 2016, 90 were arrested statewide, including 18 in the 10-county southwest region, according to the Fish & Boat Commission.

The penalties for a first offense are six months’ probation, a $300 fine and requirement to take a boating safety course.

“What can be the danger of being impaired while kayaking is they put others at risk,” Levis said. “Think of anytime someone is kayaking in high water and has to be rescued. You have all these people out there putting their lives at risk to rescue somebody who may not be in that position had they not been drinking.”

Those boating under the influence also might end up driving under the influence, such as with kayakers who place vehicles at their put-in and takeout locations.

“Our point is, don’t do it,” Levis said.

In its Facebook advisory, River’s Edge cited a story from the Sun-Gazette newspaper in Williamsport.

Citing court records, the paper reported that the commission charged three separate kayakers with operating a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance on Pine Creek. The incidents occurred on May 27 and June 5, the Sun-Gazette reported.

Brian C. Rittmeyer and Leif Greiss are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Rittmeyer at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer. Reach Greiss at 724-226-4681, [email protected] or via Twitter @Leif_Greiss.

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