Officials apprehensive for return of Aquapalooza, encourage responsibility

"It’s a completely unfunded liability"

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WLNE) – Officials in Portsmouth are bracing for the return of a controversial tradition: Aquapalooza.

The tradition draws thousands of boaters to Narragansett Bay, where boaters tie up with another, jump into the water, drink, and party.

“It’s a completely unfunded liability,” Rhode Island DEM Chief Public Affairs Officer Michael Healey told ABC6 News. The DEM says this year may be bigger than ever, following a year of restrictions.

“Eighteen months of being cooped up with COVID, the pandemic, and all the hardships that it’s brought, I mean yeah folks wanna get outside ,” 

A heavy police presence is expected. Since the event is organized on social media and not sanctioned by the Coast Guard, it can be difficult for law enforcement to monitor and control.

“It’s controlled chaos, but you do the best you can with the resources you have available at the time,” said Portsmouth Harbormaster Bruce Celico.

Police encourage boaters to be responsible. In years past, authorities say they have seen sunken boats, head injuries, and broken ribs.

“If you’re going to go overboard with the drinking and the partying, stay on your boat and sleep it off for the night,” Celico said, the equivalent of giving someone your car keys when you’ve been drinking.

Celico urges boaters to be responsible, and steer clear of using resident moorings.

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