Is an alcohol ban the only answer at Pineview and Causey reservoirs?

Thursday , May 18, 2017 - 4:30 AM

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Everybody’s for cleaner, quieter beaches.

Everybody wants to prevent boating accidents and drownings.

But is banning alcohol on the beaches at Pineview and Causey reservoirs the only approach?

The Weber County Commission thinks so.

  • RELATED: “Alcohol ban around Pineview and Causey reservoirs sails over first hurdle”

Still, that raises two questions — 1) What do the numbers say, and 2) Is there a middle ground that doesn’t require a blanket ban on alcohol?

After consulting with area property owners, boaters, anglers, hikers, law enforcement, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Forest Service, county commissioners proposed an alcohol ban for Pineview and Causey.

With a few important exceptions — specifically, the Anderson Cove and Jefferson Hunt campgrounds, marinas and the water.

“The vast majority of our resources in the Upper Valley really are dedicated to lewdness, public intoxication, fights, drownings, loud parties, DUIs and fatal crashes,” Weber County Sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Toll testified at a public hearing Tuesday. Often, those incidents involve alcohol, he said, “so having this ordinance pass really would make it a more enjoyable and safe place for people to recreate.”

Yes, but how many resources, exactly? How many alcohol-related calls do sheriff’s officers make to Causey and Pineview? What are the trends? How many drownings, DUIs and fatal crashes?

Because allowing alcohol on the water, at the campgrounds and in the marinas won’t eliminate drinking, fights and loud parties — it will only move them to new venues; sheriff’s officers will still respond to DUIs, fatal crashes and drownings.

Additionally, commissioners can’t rely on the honor system to ensure no one drinks at the beach. That will take intensive patrols.

How many officers? At what cost? If officers can enforce a ban, why can’t they also enforce laws against public intoxication and lewdness already on the books?

Trash is a problem at Weber’s reservoirs, without question. So is noise.

But drinking is legal in Utah, within limits. And if commissioners think drinkers are the only beachgoers who litter and throw loud parties, they’re kidding themselves.

Perhaps there’s another approach.

What if commissioners split the beaches at Pineview and Causey, banning alcohol on one side and allowing it on the other?

Law enforcement needs to enforce the proposed ban anyway; if they’re only concentrating on half the beach, officers can be more effective.

Try it for three years. See if it reduces trash, noise, drowning DUIs and accidents. If it doesn’t, drop the hammer.

If it does, you’ve accomplished your goal — and everyone can still enjoy the beach on a hot summer day, whether they drink or not.

The beaches at Pineview and Causey belong to the entire county. Before you take them away from people who drink, you need to demonstrate statistically, not anecdotally, that your approach will make reservoirs cleaner, quieter and safer.

And you need to explore a compromise that can accomplish those goals, short of a total ban.

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