If you have visited a Brazos River Authority reservoir, chances are that you’ve seen a Lake Ranger patrolling the waters, offering a helping hand to a boater in distress or even giving out a citation to a speeding boat. They may not be everyone’s favorite boat to encounter on the water, but their dedication and sacrifice keep our reservoirs safer for all to enjoy.
National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, which takes place on Jan. 9, allows all of us to learn about the services provided by local law enforcement, including the BRA Lake Rangers.
The BRA employs Lake Rangers at each of its reservoirs—Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury and Lake Limestone. All Lake Rangers are Texas state-commissioned peace officers with a vast range of experience in law enforcement. While it may be a peace officer position, Lake Rangers complete a wide variety of tasks to ensure that reservoir operations run smoothly.
Some of their duties include responding to emergency calls, maintaining the safety and security of our dams (critical infrastructure), maintaining buoys, conducting inspections, performing gate operations during heavy rainfall events, assisting with permitting, and assuring water quality through environmental enforcement and education.
Another important aspect of the job is assisting the public and being there in emergency situations.
“My favorite part of the job is helping people through a troubling time of their life,” Michael Watts, a Lake Ranger at Possum Kingdom Lake for more than 10 years, said. “Whether this is during a time of distress, righting a wrong, removing a threat or correcting dangerous behavior, it is very rewarding to be the person or persons answering the call. Law Enforcement’s purpose is to serve and protect the citizens of the community we work for. We strive every day to accomplish this task without bias or prejudice.”
Performing these duties can look different each day. You may spot a Lake Ranger towing a stranded boater or being involved with investigating a criminal activity that took place on the reservoir. Some are even specialized in environmental laws, while others are certified divers who help with search and rescue operations.
“As the Sergeant at Possum Kingdom Lake, I work around a group of very knowledgeable Rangers,” Lambert Jefferson, the Lake Ranger Sergeant Resident at Possum Kingdom Lake, said. “These guys know how to operate a boat very well. I watch as they operate their boats while conducting water safety checks and their skills are awesome.”
Jefferson uses his own expertise and experience to serve those around Possum Kingdom Lake—after serving as a police officer for 25 years and as a fireman for 10 years, Jefferson joined the BRA in 2020 to supervise the reservoir’s Lake Rangers.
“I use my medical experience and fire experience at the BRA,” Jefferson said. “I respond to medical issues on BRA properties as well as fires near or on BRA properties. But my favorite part of my job is getting on the lake interacting with the lake community, especially the kids.”
Kyle Lewis, the current Project Manager and Program Coordinator at Lake Granbury, has specialized training in environmental offenses. Sometimes an investigation is prompted by a phone call from a concerned neighbor, someone visiting the lake or oddities in the water. When there is cause for concern or an investigation, Lewis said in a 2019 interview; he’ll take water samples in the area, upstream and downstream, to see how far something may have spread.
No matter the issue at hand, Lake Rangers always have the safety of visitors and residents in mind. The officer's conduct water safety inspections to ensure that boaters have proper water safety equipment on board and that vessels are registered and compliant with state regulations. They work with local law enforcement agencies, are certified by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to teach water safety courses and present public awareness programs on boater safety.
“If I could teach every person one safety tip before getting on the water, it would be to learn to swim and know your limits,” said Doug Yount, a Lake Ranger at Lake Granbury. “The water is not impressed by how good of a swimmer you believe you are.”
“The most important boating safety tip has to be wearing a PFD (Personal Flotation Device),” Watts said. “Modern PFDs can be very comfortable to wear. No matter the swimming ability of a person, you just never know when tragedy will strike, and you find yourself in the water unable to swim due to injury. When getting on a boat, instead of asking yourself if you must wear a PFD, think of your future and family and ask yourself should you wear a PFD. There are just too many lives lost due to drownings.”
Beyond providing essential safety education, the BRA’s Lake Ranger work tirelessly to assist and serve our reservoir communities and all those who visit.
“I love helping people and interacting with the community I’m serving,” said Justin Bullock, a Lake Ranger at Possum Kingdom Lake for 17 years.