2007-02-17 / News

Bubblers increase danger

By Scott Rawdon

Many dock owners use bubblers to keep ice from damaging docks. Beacon photo by Scott Rawson. Many dock owners use bubblers to keep ice from damaging docks. Beacon photo by Scott Rawson. MILLERSPORT- West Bank resident Ray Karlsberger's niece and her daughter came to Buckeye Lake on a cold day to ice skate on the frozen lake.

Karlsberger's home is right on the shore and it was easy just to climb down a short ladder from his back door to the ice. Everyone had a great time skating, but Karlsberger noticed when they returned that the ice near the bank became covered by nearly fiveinches of murky brown water. Granted, the water near the West Bank is only a foot or two deep during winter pool, but still the idea of falling through the ice wasn't a pleasant one.

The docks along the West Bank are fairly crowded together, most of which have bubblers beneath them to keep ice from forming around the docks; ice can damage private docks because it moves and flows, like water albeit much more slowly, and can pull the dock along with it. Karlsberger wondered if all the bubblers were creating a current beneath the ice that was causing it to weaken. If so, this could be a danger to ice skaters and anyone else enjoying the frozen surface near the shore.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Public Information OfficerJane Beathard said that it's a very real possibility. However, there are no regulations to govern the use of bubblers and there are not likely to be any soon.

"Our position is that the ice is always unsafe," said Tim Waln, Buckeye Lake State Park manager. "We never recommend or encourage anyone to go out on the ice." He said the dock posts themselves can draw warmth from the sun and make the ice unsafe. Equally, there are numerous naturally existing springs and underwater currents that can cause unsafe ice conditions.

Waln said all dock structures need to be authorized and licensed by Ohio State Parks. "I believe the bubblers are considered part and parcel to the actual dock structure," he said. It is a best management practice across the country to have bubblers protect dock structures from ice damage. Waln believes it would not be in the ODNR's best interest to regulate bubbler usage. "It is better to always discourage anyone from venturing out on the ice in the first place," he said. There are provisions in the Ohio Administrative Code that could prohibit the use of bubblers, or a provision could be placed in dock licenses to limit their use, but Waln believes it's best to leave things the way they are and try to discourage people from going onto the ice.

Should a companion fall through the ice, the ODNR says:

+ Keep calm and think out a solution.

+ Don't run up to the hole in the ice. You may break through and then there will be two victims.

+ Use some item on shore to throw or extend to the victim to pull him or her out of the water such as jumper cables or skis, or push a boat ahead of you.

+ If you can't rescue the victim immediately, call 911. It's amazing how many people carry cell phones.

+ Get medical assistance for the victim. People who are subjected to cold water immersion but seem fineafter being rescued can suffer a potentially fatal condition called "after drop." This can occur when cold blood that is pooled in the body's extremities starts to circulate again as the victim starts to warm.

If you fall in, the ODNR says try not to panic. Instead, remain calm and turn toward the direction you came from. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface of the ice- -here's where ice picks would come in handy. Work forward on the ice by kicking your feet. If the ice breaks, maintain your position and slide forward again. Once you are laying on the ice, don't stand. Instead, roll away from the hole. That spreads out your weight until you are on solid ice. This sounds much easier than it is to do in reality.

The best advice, according to the ODNR, is don't put yourself into needless danger by venturing out too soon or too late in the season. No angler, no matter how much of a fishing enthusiast, would want to die for a crappie.

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