High water levels and debris in Charleston waterways on Labor Day Weekend

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The start of Labor Day Weekend saw high water levels in Charleston — up 10 to 15 feet — making the waterways unsafe for recreation.

There wasn’t much activity Saturday on the Kanawha River except for joggers and a father and son duo out “treasure hunting.”

“It’s just fun, it’s a good way to go outside and relax, you never know what you’re going to find,” said Robin Spencer, a Charleston resident.

Spencer and his son were fishing along the river bank with an industrial magnet, retrieving debris like knives, guns, fishing nets, and logs.

Among the many things the Spencer family found near the water was a third shopping cart.

West Virginia’s Natural Resources Police say rain this past week and mountain water from neighboring tributaries like the Elk River has made the water unsafe.

“It’s very muddy and there’s a lot of debris in it right now, the current looks very swift,” said WVDNR policeman Jacob Frantz.

On Saturday afternoon the bridge marker on the Kanawha River was at 60 feet, Frantz says it’s normally at 70 to 75 feet.

In 2019, the WVDNR Police issued 1123 warnings and citations on West Virginia’s waterways, and 20 BUIs — or “boating under the influence.”

Frantz says this is the biggest thing they’ll be looking for this Labor Day Weekend.

Other safety violations that can lead to citations are overcapacity boats, not enough life jackets or other safety equipment, and expired boat registration.

These same rules apply whether you are a kayaker or you are on a jet ski.

For instance, kayakers also need a life jacket and a flashlight. Jet skis can’t be out past dark and need a rearview mirror.

“Watch for hidden logs, debris on the water and other people that might be doing something they’re not supposed to,” is Frantz’s advice to people who are planning in using the waterways Sunday.

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