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More Police To Patrol Illinois River

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TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma -

Now that the Grand River Dam Authority has absorbed the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, those on the Illinois River will see more police patrolling.

Campgrounds are filling up for a busy holiday weekend on the Illinois River. People like Terry Legates were excited to be out enjoying the weekend.

"It's beautiful today,” he said. “Perfect day to come out here and float the river. We did the six mile today. It's real nice."

Friday was also the official day for a new state agency to patrol the scenic river.

GRDA Police captain, Bill James said, "It's just a major improvement from what we've had in the past, with all the budget cuts."

4/19/2016 Related Story: Lack Of Funding Could Force OSRC To Consolidate Into GRDA

James and his team of rangers are now GRDA police officers.

On previous holiday weekends, there may have been up to five rangers patrolling the river. Now, with the GRDA in place, there could be up to 20 making sure the Illinois River is a safe place.

Not only will GRDA be able to staff officers around the clock on the river, they'll also get new equipment. The GRDA is bringing in additional patrol boats, a rescue UTV and helicopter support.

"It will mean a quicker response time. They're going to see law enforcement on the river on weekends. If we're running 12,000-15,000 people here, and they're partying and they need help, we can get there quicker," James said.

The goal is to make the river a more family friendly environment.

"This is a change for the better,” James said. “Now, if you're a big partier and you want to come and cause problems, no, it's a change for the worse; but the majority, definitely a change for the better.”

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