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High river levels, debris having effect on boaters, Pride of Susquehanna

HARRISBURG, Pa. - River levels on the Susquehanna River are nearly triple what they normally are in summer months. The high water is also picking up debris from the shoreline and bringing it downriver. These conditions combined are not ideal for boaters, especially heading into Memorial Day weekend.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission says weather North of Harrisburg is to blame for the rise in river levels.

"If we get a lot of rain in the northern part of the state within the Susquehanna River Basin it all funnels down through here,' said Ryan Walt, boating and watercraft safety manager for the commission. 'And that's why we had all that rain last week and a lot of rain up north so that's why we're seeing all this volume down here now."

Walt reminds people, especially children to wear their life vests while on the water and make sure they fit properly. He says, the high water creates a dangerous strainer effect along the shore and tree-lines of the islands.

"If a person or boat gets washed up against these trees along the shoreline or on an island it's going to pin that boat to that object," said Walt. "And that usually cause an overboard or a capsizing of that vessel."

There is a bit of good news for people planning to head out on the river this weekend. Water levels are expected to drop a bit, but boaters should still keep an eye out for debris. Debris is the one thing that worries folks who work on the Pride of the Susquehanna because it can damage the paddlewheel.

"I can't swerve one way or another to avoid it so what I must do when I go over that thing is estimate how soon it will be back by the paddlewheel," said Commodore Jack Dillman with the Pride of the Susquehanna. "And when that happens shut them down until we drift on over."

Dillman says water regulations only allow the riverboat to sail when river levels are below eight feet, which he expects to happen Saturday morning. If all goes expected, the riverboat will hold its public sightseeing tours every hour on the hour from noon-5pm over Memorial Day weekend.