Wearing a PFD Could Save Your Life or You Too Can Float Like a Duck

Bryanna R. Poulin                                                                                                    Public Affairs Specialist


LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas—Duck hunting season is in full swing and whether hunting on the river or wading in back waters the risks associated remain the same.

Although many hunting trips could go seamlessly smooth there is no guarantee the next trip will be the same.

“A fall overboard or boating accident can happen unexpectedly,” Jeremy E. Wells, natural resource specialist Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.

Russell Malahy also a natural resource specialist with Little Rock District USACE reiterated Wells by saying “A boating accident can happen at any time,”


Even if a hunter follows every safety precaution no outdoorsman is invincible.

Malahy remembers a time loading his 10 foot boat during a chilly winter morning to go duck hunting with his friend.

“At that age I was bulletproof and ignorant to the world,” Malahy joked. “Off we went with about 2 inches of freeboard, loaded to the brim with our gear and a small horse and a half outboard that could barely push us.”

However as the two youngsters plowed through the water another boat came upon them at accelerating speeds.

“They trailed us for a while,” Malahy said.  “Then, I assume, decided they couldn’t wait and went to pass without a care of slowing down throwing a wake any surfer would have thoroughly enjoyed.”

While a surfer would enjoy the heavy wake the near fatal accident for Malahy and his buddy could have gone much worse.

“At the time, the only thing that came to mind was a few select curse words for the gentlemen, not realizing the dangers we just merely escaped,” Malahy said. “Call it luck, call it faith, call it whatever you would like but for some reason that morning we never swamped the little boat. We were not wearing life jackets, tremendously overloaded, and ill prepared for any accident. I think back about that day and ponder on the decisions we make in life.”


Experience like this makes Malahy understand the importance of duck hunting water safety.

“Some accidents we are lucky to learn from but not everyone ends up as lucky as we were that cold dark morning,” Malahy said.

Even though Malahy didn’t encounter any incidents that day there are a number of things that could have gone wrong.  Both Malahy and Wells stress the importance of safety while in or around the water during duck hunting season.

“It is important to wear your life jacket and consider all safety precautions while boating and hunting so you can return home to those that love you,” Wells said.

“Being safe is important because your family needs you to return home alive,” Malahy added.

The most obvious safety measure would be wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD). But some find endless excuses to not wear them.

“The most common excuses are they are bulky or hunters think they can’t shoot while wearing one or the water is only waist deep water,” Malahy said.


Wearing a PFD decreases the chance of drowning. It doesn’t mean a hunter is completely out of the woods during hunting.

“Other hazards hunters face when boating during duck hunting is hitting floating debris, logs, running aground, taking on water, and capsizing,” Wells noted.  “All these things could lead to damaging the boat motor or lead to a serious boating accident and you finding yourself in the cold water.”

In other words threats are everywhere.

“Hunters could overload their vessel and have improper weight distribution,” Malahy added.  “There are underwater obstructions or complete carelessness and racing to the duck holes.”

Even though wearing a PFD can keep a hunter from drowning it doesn’t protect against the other reasons for fatalities.

“I wouldn’t say that all fatalities are from drowning alone,” Wells believed. “There are other causes of death like hypothermia, shock, impacts from striking an object and other injuries sustained from boating accidents.”

Basically since duck hunting season is during the winter nobody is immune to the cold water.

“Falling in the cold water or accident injuries could also lead to other serious illness or medical emergencies,” Wells said.

Of course if drowning doesn’t cause a fatality, hypothermia could.

“Other risks are cold water immersion, which leads to hypothermia, propeller strikes from falling overboard and not wearing a kill switch,” Malahy said.

Simultaneously wearing a PFD coupled with a kill switch increases the chance for survival if thrown overboard.

“If you do fall overboard, your life jacket will keep you afloat and the shutoff lanyard will keep your boat from running uncontrolled,” Malahy added.


 If someone is wearing a PFD and floating in cold water there are simple life saving techniques for hypothermia.

“Hypothermia can kill,” Malahy said. “Huddle with others if you can’t get out of the water.  If you are by yourself draw your knees up to your chest and float.”

Nevertheless according to the U.S. Coast Guard in 2015 there were 428 deaths caused by drowning and only 63 had their life jacket on.

Yet wearing a PFD is personal accountability so it’s important to try to encourage people who aren’t wearing it.

“If you’re a captain of a vessel take a stand for safety and make all passengers wear their life jackets while riding in your boat,” Malahy said. “Also people can appeal to their friends and family to wear it for those they love.”

Wells believes encouragement and being firm is important.

“Try to encourage them to wear their life jacket, remind them that something could go wrong at any time and they need to return home to those that love them,” Wells emphasized.  “Or simply refuse to operate the boat until everyone has on their life jacket.”

Since USACE is the largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation in the nation educating guests on water safety is one of the top priorities.

“We have an aggressive water safety campaign nationwide to educate and inform the general public in the importance of wearing a life jacket, boating safety and just being safe around water,” Wells concluded.  “We do this though use of many outreach tools to include ranger interpretive programs, social media, media publications and literature, advertising, water safety booths at events, to just a park ranger talking to someone on the lake shore.”


The most important takeaway is to always wear your life jacket and heed all safety precautions while boating and hunting so you can return home to your loved ones.

For more safety tips go tohttp://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Recreation/National-Water-Safety_Program/

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeks public comment on Proposed Rule for Use of USACE Reservoir Projects for Domestic, Municipal and Industrial Water Supply

Washington (December 16, 2016) – The Department of the Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), today released and is seeking comment on a proposed rule to update and clarify its policies governing the use of USACE reservoir projects for domestic, municipal and industrial water supply pursuant to Section 6 of the Flood Control Act of 1944, 33 U.S.C. § 708 (Section 6), and the Water Supply Act of 1958, 43 U.S.C. § 390b (WSA).

Specifically, USACE proposes to define key terms under both statutes and to respond to issues that have arisen in exercising these authorities, in order to take into account court decisions, legislative provisions and other developments. The proposed rule is intended to enhance USACE’s ability to cooperate with state and local interests in the development of water supplies in connection with the operation of its reservoirs for federal purposes as authorized by Congress, to facilitate water supply uses of USACE reservoirs by others as contemplated under applicable law, and to avoid interfering with lawful uses of water by any entity when USACE exercises its discretionary authority under either Section 6 or the WSA.

USACE intends by this rulemaking proposal to initiate a positive dialogue with stakeholders on these important issues, and to promote program certainty and efficiency by ultimately establishing a uniform understanding of Section 6 and the WSA, and the range of activity authorized thereunder. The release of the proposed rule follows through on USACE’s commitment to establish clearer and more consistent policies in this area, in cooperation with the public.

Purpose of Proposed Rule 

The proposed rule seeks to clarify USACE understanding of the congressional intent behind Section 6 and the WSA; define key statutory terms; more clearly delineate the authority conferred under each statute; and establish policies that would improve efficiency and coordination with states, federal agencies and other stakeholders regarding water supply uses of USACE reservoirs. The proposed rule would also explain the USACE approach to important policy questions that have arisen nationwide, including the pricing of surplus water agreements under Section 6, the reallocation of storage under the WSA, and accounting of storage usage and return flows under WSA agreements, and would solicit public input and comments on those subjects.

The rule would also clarify and simplify processes for approving and entering into water supply agreements at USACE reservoirs, and includes procedures for coordinating with states, tribes and other federal agencies to ensure that water rights are protected and the views, expertise and prerogatives of others are taken into account.

The overall intent of the proposed rule is to enhance USACE’s ability to cooperate with interested parties by facilitating water supply uses of USACE reservoirs in a manner that is consistent with the authorized purposes of those reservoirs, and does not interfere with lawful uses of water under state law or other federal Law. The proposed rule would apply only to reservoir projects operated by USACE, not to projects operated by other federal or non-federal entities.

The proposed rule is intended to ensure that USACE carries out its authority under Section 6 and the WSA in a manner that does not interfere with state, tribal or other water rights, and that recognizes related responsibilities and authorities under the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and other federal law. The proposed rule would acknowledge that when USACE acts pursuant to either Section 6 or the WSA, USACE does not issue, sell, adjudicate or allocate water rights for domestic, municipal, industrial or other consumptive uses. Rather, under both statutes, USACE makes water in a USACE reservoir available for water supply use by others. These users are exercising their separately derived water rights, and they bear the sole responsibility to acquire and defend any water rights necessary to make withdrawals, in accordance with state or other applicable law.

Features of Proposed Rule

Key features of the proposed rule include the following:

  • Explanation of the purpose and scope of the authority conferred under Section 6 and the Water Supply Act, including the water supply uses that may be accommodated, and statutory limits on USACE’s authority to include storage for water supply
  • Definitions interpreting key statutory terms, including “surplus water”
  • Pricing methodologies for surplus water contracts under Section 6, and for water supply storage agreements under the Water Supply Act
  • Provisions to simplify and streamline USACE administrative processes for authorizing surplus water withdrawals
  • Provisions to clarify the amount of water that may be withdrawn under water supply storage agreements and procedures to account for water supply uses
  • Provisions to ensure coordination of proposed water supply actions with states, tribes, federal agencies and the public

The proposed rule is administrative in nature and applies only to USACE actions pursuant to Section 6 and the Water Supply Act, not under any other authority. It would apply prospectively and only to reservoir projects operated by USACE, not to projects operated by other federal or non-federal entities. It would not impose requirements on any other entity, alter existing contractual arrangements at USACE reservoirs, or require operational changes at any USACE reservoir.

Request for Public Comments

USACE encourages all interested persons to carefully review the preamble and the proposed rule and to offer comments for consideration. USACE looks forward to a constructive dialogue with all interested stakeholders.

The public comment period on the proposed rule lasts for 60 days and ends February 14, 2017. The proposed rule, along with instructions for submitting comments, is available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket ID number COE-2016-0016.