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Boaters asked to play it safe near locks and dams

It's time to bid a farewell to winter and zip down to the river to make some waves.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, urges boaters to be safe around dams.

Officials advise approaching dams carefully and avoiding restricted areas above and below the dams.

Restricted areas are marked by danger signs and are strictly off-limits to all boaters. Violators are subject to a citation and fine.

The surface of the water near a lock and dam may appear calm; but strong and deceptive currents lie beneath the surface.

The currents are powerful enough to drag a boat and its occupants to the bottom.

The currents downstream from the dam are particularly deceptive.

They actually reverse direction and flow back toward the dam.

Boats can be pulled into the dam gates by the back currents and capsized.

Drownings have occurred this way that could have been avoided.

Officials remind boaters to obey the signals and directions of lock attendants.

In last place, recreational vessels follow commercial vessels and commercial tows.

Smaller boats should also maintain a safe distance from commercial boats and barges.

Larger vessels have less maneuverability and can generate large waves and turbulence.

If boaters see another boater in distress near a dam, they should try to contact the lock.

Lock staff will shut the gates and make the rescue safer for everyone.

Boaters should not go into the restricted area and try to perform a rescue or they, too, will more than likely end up a victim.

Federal law requires each person have an approved wearable personal flotation device be on board for each person in federal waters, which includes the Mississippi River.

Children under 13 are required to wear a PFD at all times.

In addition, a life ring is required on boats 16-feet longer.