State presents plan to map where boats can moor in harbor

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working to map out specific places where mooring buoys will be allowed in Quartermaster Harbor, the next step in a long-term project to clear the harbor of abandoned buoys and make the bay safer for boats.

On Thursday DNR officials will visit Vashon to discuss the mooring buoy plan with boat owners who may be affected.

“It’s kind of like putting parking stripes in a parking lot,” said Toni Droscher, a spokeswoman for DNR’s Aquatics Program.

About a year ago, DNR’s Aquatic Reserves Program identified Quartermaster Harbor as one of several bays in the state it wanted to manage more closely. At the time officials said the harbor contained many abandoned buoys and boats and was too crowded with boats in some areas.

Not only do some boats and unused buoys pose a navigational hazard to other boats, officials said, but many buoys drag on the bottom of the harbor, damaging the marine habitat.

Over the past year, DNR has worked to identify abandoned buoys in the harbor and contact the owners of unlicensed ones. State law requires that boats moored for more than 30 days in the harbor be registered with DNR, but at the time the project began only about five of the many buoys in Quartermaster were licens-ed. Since then, Droscher said, 34 buoy owners have submitted applications with the state. Buoys on private property do not need permits.

At a workshop Thursday evening at McMurray Middle School, DNR representatives will continue to reach out to boat owners as well as present a preliminary map of where buoys would be allowed in the harbor. Under the plan, Droscher said, some boat owners will be required to move their buoys.

Depending on the feedback received on the plan this week, Droscher said, the state may hold another public meeting in June.

“We’ll see if it seems things are moving forward, or if there’s something we may take another look at it,” she said.

Once the plan is finalized this summer, the public will be able to comment on it as part of an environmental review required by state law.

Lisa Randlette, an environmental planner with DNR’s Aquatics Resources Division, said that the Quartermaster project has gone well so far. Aside from receiving applications for buoy licenses, the department, with help from Islanders, has identified abandoned and unused buoys and boats. They have even passed some of that information on the sheriff’s office.

“We’ve already seen some interim successes,” Randlette said in an email. “In response to information from local boaters, the King County Marine Unit has removed a number of derelict vessels that posed navigation and safety hazards.”

Droscher said the buoy plan to be presented tomorrow will focus on the Burton and Dockton areas, where boats are most crowded. Buoys will be strategically mapped so that boats tied to them aren’t at risk of running into one another as buoy lines swing because of tides or weather, she said, and so that boats don’t pose a navigational hazard to vessels coming in and out of the harbor.

Officials believe many boats in the harbor are also tied to inadequate anchors that damage the floor of the harbor, Droscher said. At the meeting they will give information about what types of buoys are acceptable under state law.

“People have thrown different thing in over the years (as anchors),” Droscher said. “Old refrigerators and keggers, things like that.”

Eventually, Droscher said, divers will investigate parts of the harbor to record how many buoys are anchored appropriately. Buoys that aren’t licensed or don’t comply with state law will be removed from the harbor as early as this year.

“We want to get a really clear picture of what is down there,” Droscher said. “We know where the buoys are. Now we need to go and see what’s actually holding them up.”


The DNR Aquatics Program will hold a public workshop to seek input on proposed buoy placing in Quartermaster Harbor at 7 p.m. Thursday at McMurray Middle School. There will be buoy permit applications available. For more information on the project, see



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