Sunday, June 13, 2021
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Swimming and boating require attention to safety

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | June 1, 2021 1:00 AM

COLUMBIA RIVER — Summer is coming – hey, if temperatures are any indication it’s already here – and on a hot day the river can look mighty tempting. But swimming on the Columbia River, even at the swimming beaches, requires some precautions to be done safely.

Irrigation canals can look really tempting, too, especially on a day when the temperatures are approaching triple digits and the pool is far away. But the Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District has something to say about that.

Don’t.

“The district does not allow swimming, fishing or other recreational activities around its canals,” according to a statement on the QCBID website. “The water may look inviting but underneath the surface are powerful currents that can pull a person under very quickly.”

Some canals have steep banks and a lot of vegetation along the water line, which can make it very hard to climb out.

Grant County PUD has published a list of safety tips that will help reduce the possibility of accidents when swimming or boating on the river

The PUD has swimming beaches along the river, but none are staffed by lifeguards. People should always keep an eye on each other when they’re in the water.

And this time of year that water’s cold – it was snow not that long ago.

“Cold water reduces body heat 25 times faster than air at the same temperature,” the PUD website said. “Columbia River water can be cold enough to cause serious harm. Wearing a life jacket increases your survival time.”

A hot day is a great one for taking out the boat or personal watercraft. Maybe the crew plans to do some water skiing or wakeboarding. But boating or riding personal watercraft along the river also requires attention to some basic safety precautions.

Everyone on the boat should wear a life jacket, and a properly fitting one at that. Getting up speed is fun, but the driver should be looking out for hazards like rocks on or just under the surface, floating objects in the water – and especially other boats.

It’s a good idea to stay away from the upstream or downstream area of any dam. Gates are opening and closing, and as a result there can be sudden changes in water current and water flow.

Dam operations also can mean sudden changes in river levels, so people swimming around the shore and out boating on the river should watch for that. Weather conditions can change suddenly, too, and high winds and choppy water can sink a swimmer or a boat.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.