Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

August 16, 2018

Randy Simons | Dan Keefe
(518) 486-1868 |

New York State Urges Boaters to Beware in Flood-Impacted Regions

Dangers Lurking Beneath Muddy and Murky Surface Waters

Boaters Advised to Avoid All Areas Where Heavy Debris Has Accumulated

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks), the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Canal Corporation reminds all boat operators to be extra vigilant and review all safe boating procedures before hitting the waters in flood impacted regions. Heavy rains and flash flooding in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions have introduced new hidden dangers and disrupted previously dormant dangers beneath the surface that are not visible due to elevated murky and muddy water levels. Submerged objects such as trees and any kind of debris can threaten boaters and cause damage or injuries.

New York State Agencies are working with affected municipalities, local sheriff departments, boating safety instructors, and local marinas to actively spread the message to educate boaters.

New York State Parks and Park Police have contacted local marinas in flood impacted areas, issued an emergency e-blast to more than 8,000 boaters and installed direct message boards across the affected regions.

The New York State Canal Corporation continues to monitor water levels, particularly in areas hard hit by heavy rains, such as Seneca Lake. If conditions worsen, Canal officials may temporarily close portions of the Canal System until water levels recede to allow for safe boating. The Canal Corporation issued Notices to Mariners to keep boaters apprised of current conditions that may affect navigation. To sign up for these notices, go to

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is actively monitoring waterbodies in flood impacted areas. DEC spills staff is coordinating efforts to document and remove any pollution hazards, including drums, containers, and contaminated material. DEC crews are assessing the volume of debris and determining remedial measures to clean up any contaminated materials on waterbodies. The public can notify DEC of releases to the environment by calling the NYS Spill Hotline at 1-800-457-7362.

All boaters are urged to take special precaution while on the water in flood impacted areas.

Maintain Prudent Speed

Boaters are encouraged to reduce speeds during this time to ensure safe boating. Under normal conditions, boaters are required to obey the five-mile per hour speed limit within 100 feet of the shore, dock, pier, raft, float, or anchored boat. When no speed limit is posted, vessels must always be operated in such a fashion so as not to endanger others. A vessel must be able to stop safely within the clear space ahead and a vessel operator is always responsible for any damage caused by the vessel's wake. Waves created by boat wakes can exacerbate shoreline erosion, further threatening residential and municipal infrastructure. Reducing speeds will also result in reduced boat wakes and lessen the wave action along the affected shorelines.

Wear a Life Jacket

In addition to a vessel's speed, the one piece of safety equipment that all boats must carry is the life jacket. All life jackets carried on board your vessel must be serviceable, readily accessible, and of the appropriate size for the wearer. A serviceable life jacket must be free of rot, tears, punctures, or waterlogging. All straps and buckles must be attached and fully functional. Readily accessible means the PFD must be quickly reachable in an emergency situation. State law requires that children under age 12 wear a personal flotation device while on a watercraft. It is advisable that everyone wear one while boating while these hazardous waters conditions exist.

State Boating Law aims to reduce boating accidents and deaths. In addition, boaters are reminded to practice safe and responsible boating, including:

  • Properly equip and inspect their vessel;
  • Refrain from mixing alcohol with boating;
  • Check the weather forecast before heading out on the water to learn about potential storms and seek immediate shelter on shore if thunder is audible.
  • Develop a float plan and leave it with a reliable person on shore
  • Take a boating safety course

People paddling canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards should know their abilities and take precautions when there are high or steady winds creating large waves, or when they are in strong currents. Paddlers in waters where there are motorboats should keep close to shorelines and out of main channels. New York State Parks recommends that life jackets be worn on all paddlecraft.

For more information about boating safety - including listings of boating safety courses - and marine recreation in New York State, visit