A rafting event planned for this weekend is causing local law enforcement concern over safety.
Rafters are expected to float the Feather River Saturday, launching from the Feather River Parkway in Yuba City and exiting at Shanghai Bend Park in Yuba City, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Law enforcement personnel are prepared for the influx of out-of-towners, Sutter County Sheriff’s Community Action Team Leader Andre Licon said Tuesday. Both the Sutter County and Yuba County sheriff’s departments will be staffed up to patrol the shoreline, Licon said, and there will be several sheriff’s office boats and water craft.
They won’t be there to spoil the fun, he said, but to keep a lookout for safety hazards.
For one, there’s the significant construction on and around the Fifth Street Bridge, which rafters are slated to float near. Licon said for the past several weeks, deputies have gone down to shoreline and have observed numerous hazards like rebar and iron at the water line and just below, which can damage rafts as well as cause injuries. Licon said he hopes to encourage organizers to launch at Riverfront Park in Marysville for that reason.
Licon also cautions rafters to be aware of the temperature and flow of the river, which is still being fed mountain runoff. The water is fairly murky, which may inhibit visibility of underwater hazards like branches, and the water flow from the Oroville Dam is around 8,700 cubic feet per second. As of Tuesday afternoon, the water coming from the Hyatt Powerplant at Oroville was 53 degrees. The surface water temperature from Shanghai Bend to the 10th Street Bridge, Licon said, is 60 degrees.
“What people may fail to remember is air doesn’t conduct heat like water does,” he said. “When water is a factor, it draws heat from you immediately.”
There is no county ordinance for open containers for non-motorized vehicles on the river, Licon said, so deputies can only encourage safe drinking as alcohol can impair decision-making. If someone becomes too impaired to care for themselves, then deputies will get involved. He said everyone under the age of 13 is required to wear life vests, though everyone is encouraged to wear one.
The water is pretty poor for fishing right now, Licon said, but those who plan on taking their boats to the river this weekend should be aware of the high population of rafters also using the waterway.
For those who may find themselves unexpectedly off a raft, Licon says do not try to swim upstream. Instead, swim cross-stream to the nearest shore and shout for help. Rafters can expect an estimated three-hour journey down the river if they make no stops.
Historically, there haven’t been many rafting events in the Yuba-Sutter area, with most taking place in Sacramento or Chico, Licon said.
“If everyone comes up to the community and they behave well and are respectful of the area and are good for business owners then that’s great, that’s all we can ask for,” Licon said.