Ogdensburg flotilla commander says boater safety never more important

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OGDENSBURG — With water levels at record highs along Lake Ontario and part of the St. Lawrence River, boater safety has never been more important, according to Stephen J. Trenton, Flotilla Commander for the Ogdensburg U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Mr. Trenton said National Safe Boating Week kicks off on Saturday, and this year’s high water levels across the region have created conditions where people should use extra caution when spending time on area lakes and rivers, especially the St. Lawrence River.

Mr. Trenton said there is a large amount of debris submerged and floating in the St. Lawrence River and high water levels have covered rocks and other natural formations.

“The whole current has changed in some places,” he said. “Rocks that were visible last year are covered up, and when that happens it changes the current of the river. So we are telling people to know where they are going.”

In addition to submerged rocks, Mr. Trenton said the Coast Guard Auxiliary has received multiple reports of large pieces of debris that are traveling downstream from Lake Ontario. Docks, timbers, whole trees and other items have all been reported.

“We had one report of a 1,000-gallon steel tank floating down the river,” he said.

He said the biggest danger on the water this year is not what boaters can see — but what remains invisible just below the surface.

“It’s like the tip of an iceberg,” Mr. Trenton said.

To help draw attention to the need for boat safely and to launch National Safe Boating Week, Mr. Trenton said north country residents will gather at the Dobisky Visitors Center in Ogdensburg at 11 a.m. Saturday for the reading of a proclamation by Mayor Wayne L. Ashley, and to don their life jackets for a group photo.

The photo will be used to help try and set a new world record for life jacket wearers. Participants from 11 countries are scheduled to take place. The old record in 2015 saw 10,917 people put on their life jackets for the event.

Mr. Trenton said there are a number of boater safety classes being held throughout the region, and that this year the need to have the proper equipment and knowledge on board when on the water has never been greater. He said given the current level of Lake Ontario, he expects high water along all stretches of the St. Lawrence River to continue for some time.

“Lake Ontario is at an all-time high right now, and it all ends up right here,” Mr. Trenton said. “This is the only way out.”

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