With the approval of its 2017 operating and capital budgets, the Pierce County Council is focusing on public safety, which comes with an increase in marine patrols on Lake Tapps.
An additional $15,000 will be allocated to putting more officers from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department on the water to monitor the lake — and to ensure safety of the people who use it. The prior general fund for the Marine Services Unit was $98,700. The new amount is $113,700.
Council member and Vice Chair Dan Roach, who serves District 1, which encompasses the Lake Tapps area, helped approve the budget at the Council’s Nov. 29 meeting.
“One of the hot button issues in my district is Lake Tapps,” Roach said. “One thing that is unanimous is that our current regulations that we have on Lake Tapps need to be enforced.”
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Some of those regulations include speeding on the lake during boating season, noise and rafting ordinances. Lake Tapps has seen its fair share of boating- and swimming-related incidents.
The increased marine patrols will put an emphasis on staying safe on the lake.
“Generally, on Lake Tapps, things are great,” Roach said. “But really high volumes (of people) and (on) hot weekends — that’s where they’re going to focus that money on additional shifts.”
Normally, patrols are numerous during the summertime, when more people are using the lake for recreational purposes. More patrol hours would mean more law enforcement officers on the lake during these times, boating around and keeping tabs on the area.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Marine Services Unit has 20 deputies. Most of its patrols consist of a single boat on the lake from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sometimes a second boat patrols from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“On a regular weekend we’ll probably have four or five two-man boats on different lakes in different areas,” said Pierce County Sgt. Brian Ward.
While deputies keep busy, Ward said Lake Tapps is a big lake with many channels and surface areas that could be better covered with the help of a second boat. In the past few years, the unit has received less money to pay for the extra patrols. This year’s budget makes a difference.
“The extra money from the Council will help augment Lake Tapps,” he said.
“(The deputies) know the lake so they’ll hit the problem areas,” Roach agreed. “I think it'll go a long way.”
Other aspects of the 2017 Pierce County budget focusing on public safety include an addition of five deputy Sheriff positions and a $225,000 increase to the Drug Enforcement Fund.