VIDEO: Alcohol ban = fewer rescues on American River

A series of dramatic river rescues about 10 days ago may have set the tone for the 4th of July holiday weekend.  Some avoided rivers like the American because of the dangers.  But an alcohol ban approved by the State Legislature is getting most of the credit for taking the sizzle out of the 4th..

The loud sounds of a helicopter could be heard moving up and down the American River on Monday.  But it’s what you couldn’t see or hear that made the most striking difference: there was less alcohol on the river.  25-year-old Elizabeth Depelteau was struck by the change.  ”They would get really wasted and everybody would fight and mud wrestle and do all those kinds of things.  It was really scary.”

But there are tradeoffs. Patrol boats from the Sacramento Metro Fire Department gave FOX40’s John Lobertini a front row seat to the cold, fast moving water.  Dam releases from Folsom Lake have slowed, but the river is still moving at double its normal speed.  It’s cold too, a dangerous 52 degrees says Assistant Fire Chief Scott Cockrum.  ”Again, it’s a 50 degree temperature difference between the outside ambient temperature and the water.  It just shocks your body and takes your breath away from you.”

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Rafters arrested for bringing booze on the American River

It’s the law in Sacramento County: no alcohol permitted on the American River. And this holiday, police are checking rafters headed out for a float to be certain they aren’t carrying any liquor with them.

Getting caught with on the river with, say, a hefty-bag full of booze is one sure way to end your long weekend early. That’s what happened in one arrest Sunday. Police confiscated cans of Coors Light, Jagermeister, vodka… and Lord knows what was in the Oceanspray bottle.

Most rafters know better.

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2011 most dangerous year for river rescues

Double trouble on Northern California waterways.  The water is fast, it’s extremely cold and there aren’t enough cops to police all the potential problems.  And, the dangers may be far worse than most people realize.

According to the California Department of Boating and Waterways more people have been killed in swift water river accidents in the first 6 months of 2011 than any other period on record.

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Rangers checking boats, rafts, for alcohol

Park rangers began on Saturday a three-day stretch of checking boats and coolers for alcohol as people arrive at the Sunrise Bridge access point to the American River in Rancho Cordova.

They discovered bottles of beer with at least one man who claimed on Saturday afternoon not to be carrying alcohol as he made his way to the water. He had to dispose of the beer before he could continue. In some instances, rangers have cited people who appear to be hiding alcohol on their way onto the water.

On the American River, the alcohol ban is in place between Hazel Avenue and Watt Avenue.

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Flow reduced on American River

People trying to stay cool in the American River this weekend will enjoy a less treacherous flow of water, after weeks of extremely rapid flow created by fast-melting Sierra snow that accumulated during an unusually long winter.

On Saturday, the Bureau of Reclamation reduced water releases from the Nimbus Dam from 11,000 cubic feet per second to 6,000 for the holiday weekend. The amount will be increased on Monday evening, said Randy Lewis, a park ranger in Rancho Cordova who was talking to boaters at the Sunrise Bridge access point to the river.

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Officials urge safety around swift, cold river waters

With the forecast for toasty temperatures in the triple digits, area lakes and rivers are expected to draw Independence Day crowds. But public safety officials warn that rivers are flowing swifter and higher than usual for the July 4 weekend.

The California Department of Boating and Waterways predicts that this will be a dangerous summer for water enthusiasts. Officials reported that more boaters have died in swift-water river accidents in the first six months of 2011 than during any comparable period on record.

Rivers are running faster and colder than usual, and lakes are higher, masking underwater hazards that were exposed in previous years, Lucia Becerra, acting director of the Department of Boating and Waterways, said in a written statement.

One of the biggest safety concerns, officials said, is the use of flotation devices, such as lightweight rafts which typically are designed for swimming pools or calm waters. They warn that these devices can easily lose air or be punctured by debris or tree branches, and should not be used during this period of high, swift and cold water conditions.

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Folsom Lake jam packed for Fourth Of July weekend

Hundreds of boaters and campers were expected to pack Folsom Lake this Fourth of July weekend. Beals Point campground was already full as of Saturday morning. Some campers said they had to make reservations months in advance. Campers said it’s no doubt going to be chaotic when all the boats get in the water at the same time. Park rangers suggest drivers get to the park by noon to get a parking spot.

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Run through River Park set for Fourth

The free Fourth of July five-mile run will again be held this year in Sacramento’s River Park neighborhood.

Sponsored by the Buffalo Chips running club, the five-miler through the leafy environs of one of Sacramento’s quieter neighborhoods begins at 8 a.m. Runners must sign a waiver, but that’s the only requirement.

The run begins near Glen Hall Park, located along the American River Sandburg and Carlson drives.

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Folsom Lake to increase downstream releases

Folsom Lake water managers will begin increasing water releases from the dam beginning this afternoon due to late June rain, said the Bureau of Reclamation. Dam operators will begin increasing downstream release from 8000 cubic feet per second to 11,000 cfs beginning at 1 p.m. The increases will likely cause a rise downstream on the American River.

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23 rescued from sandbar in American River

Sacramento Metro Fire crews rescued 23 people who were stuck on a sandbar in the American River around 7:15 p.m. Monday.

Crews responded behind a home at 2500 Tiffany Lane after a group of rafts, tied together, got stuck on the sandbar at River Bend Park, Asst. Chief Dale Turner said.

A helicopter was also on scene to help with the rescue.

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