Friday, June 29, 2007

Dry River

Governor signs holiday alcohol ban on American River.

American River going 'dry'
Schwarzenegger signs bill banning holiday boozing on the water.
By Ed Fletcher - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, June 29, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has turned the lower American River into "Dry Creek" this July 4 -- signing into law Thursday urgency legislation that makes it illegal to drink alcoholic beverages while rafting between Hazel and Watt avenues.

The governor's signature on Assembly Bill 951 comes just in time for Sacramento County officials eager to have the ban in place for this weekend and Independence Day. Because the bill passed as an urgency matter -- having won two-thirds approval in the Assembly and Senate -- it takes effect immediately.

"Our goal has been to make the parkway and the river family-friendly during the summer holidays," said Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan. "I'm glad to see the governor agrees."

Local authorities have been working for years to end the "spring break" partying that has attracted thousands of young people to the river on the three summer holidays: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Officials said things have gotten out of control in recent years, with fights, profanity and public nudity all too common. Back-to-back Fourth of July weekends were punctuated by melees and arrests.

In 2006, the county made it illegal to drink alcohol or carry open alcoholic beverage containers in the American River Parkway along the shores between Hazel and Watt avenues on the summer holidays. But that action didn't affect the river, which the state controls.

"We didn't have these problems 10 years ago," said Dave Lydick, deputy director of the county parks department. "You just didn't see the type of violent behavior you see now. This doesn't make for a situation where people will take their kids."

The new state law applies to Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. The ban is in effect this Saturday, Sunday and Independence Day on Wednesday.