ELEPHANT BUTTE, N.M. (KRQE) – High water levels are attracting the masses to Elephant Butte Lake this Memorial Day weekend.
With so many people on the water, comes the opportunity for accidents.
KRQE News 13 rode along with marine enforcement officers Sunday as they cracked down on unsafe boaters.
“This year there’s actually a lot more people,” explained boater Cory Stone.
Marine enforcement officers were out in full force Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off the summer boating season.
“We’re going to stop this boat right here,” said Marine Patrol officer Greg Claesson as he pulled up next to the boat. “The reason we’re stopping you is when your tuber fell off, you didn’t have a skier down flag,” he explained to the boaters.
Claesson says it’s been pretty calm on the water so far – only a couple minor accidents.
“Can I also check your registration while I have you stopped?” he asked the boat driver.
Claesson says a big part of keeping it a calm holiday weekend is making sure boaters are following the rules.
“Most likely I’m going to issue a citation for him not having a life jacket,” Claesson said. “It’s just somebody ends up in the water, no life jacket they get tired and they drown,” he said.
Three people have drowned at Elephant Butte Lake over the last year and a half, more than average.
“I’ve never seen anyone drown with a life jacket on,” Claesson explained.
He said a lot of what officers deal with this early in the season is towing broken down boats.
“Lots of boats that aren’t quite ready to go but they’re out here.”
A big concern is people using floats near the shore.
“They don’t have a life jacket on, wind picks up and all of the sudden they’re in trouble because that wind is pushing them away from shore,” Claesson said.
He said he also is always on the lookout for drunk boaters, “nobody yet but they are out here,” he explained.
A relatively quiet weekend at least, so far on the water for marine enforcement, cracking down on irresponsible boaters.
This weekend Elephant Butte officials say they’re expecting 100,000 visitors. About 20,000 more than last year.