Opinion: Bonanza dropped ball by not recognizing Marine 9 volunteers | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Bonanza dropped ball by not recognizing Marine 9 volunteers

Don Morrison
Special to the Bonanza

The acquisition of a new, high-tech, patrol and search/rescue boat for the benefit of Washoe County, and actually all of Lake Tahoe, by Washoe County Sheriff's Office, is obviously very newsworthy.

And, at least for me, it was worthy of front page coverage in the Bonanza on June 25. It was disappointing to not see any reference in the extensive article to the group of volunteers who have made the Sheriff's Marine 9 boat program possible — yes, possible — for almost 10 years, as recognized by WCSO management.

Incline Marine Auxiliary, a local 501(c)3 Nevada nonprofit organization of about 20 very highly trained and skilled boating enthusiasts are volunteers who are available 24/7/365 for routine law enforcement patrols (with a deputy on board), safety patrols and boater education when a deputy is not scheduled, and search and rescue events when called upon.

The hours these volunteers spend on the water each year are about equivalent to one deputy on the water 40 hours a week for a full year.

During the economic slowdown for the past few years, the burden of keeping M9 on the water on weekends and responding to SAR events fell almost totally to IMA due to the sheriff's office budget cuts, unavailability of deputies, and changes in staffing at the Incline Substation.

I believe there was one missed communication in the reporting in the June 25 article. Volunteers were mentioned. The article stated the boat deputies "volunteer" their time. There are some unpaid volunteer "reserve" deputies who work very effectively on M9.

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But the full-time deputies, if on board, are members of the Patrol Division who have requested and been assigned boat duty. Interestingly, the boat training of new boat deputies has been the responsibility of IMA (with the exception of Nevada boating law).

The deputies are generally scheduled in advance for boat duty, and are paid, one way or another, for time on the boat. The boat schedule usually does not exactly overlap the "street" shift schedule, so the deputy may adjust the shift, get paid overtime if necessary, or take "comp" time off for time boat time that does not overlap with scheduled street time.

As a founding member of the volunteer group I was really surprised and disappointed that Incline Marine Auxiliary was not recognized for its contribution for all these years to boating safety on Lake Tahoe.

The Bonanza alone should not be criticized. The Reno Gazette-Journal published a really big front page spread a few days later with no mention of the dedicated volunteers either.

Also, to answer many, many questions from friends and other citizens, I have been told by WCSO that IMA volunteers have not been implicated in any way in the Memorial Day sinking of the old M9 last year.

Don Morrison is an Incline Village resident and a member of the Incline Marine Auxiliary. Visit marine9.org to learn more.