A plan to establish regulated mooring buoy fields in Quartermaster Harbor will be the focus of a public workshop on Vashon Island next week.
Boaters are invited to attend the workshop next Thursday evening, when representatives from the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will outline a preliminary plan showing the proposed layout for mooring buoy fields in the Burton and Dockton areas of Quartermaster Harbor.
Lisa Randlette, DNR’s project manager for the initiative, said the need to establish a mooring plan arose over environmental concerns about the harbor, where an increased number of unauthorized mooring buoys have sprung up over the past five years.
Quartermaster Harbor is the site of a marine reserve, hosts the largest spawning population of Pacific herring in south Puget Sound and is an important wintering area for 35 bird species — in other words, it’s not a place state officials want boats to be haphazardly moored in, especially illegal liveaboards.
“For years it’s been pretty low-density, but particularly in the last five years, there’s been an increase in mooring buoys” in the harbor, Randlette said. “We’re concerned about the accumulation of mooring buoys, some portion of which are unused and abandoned.”
The economic downturn, she said, likely prompted some boaters to seek free moorage in the harbor and led to an increase in derelict vessels, four of which have been removed from Quartermaster in recent months. Randlette said there are about 50 unauthorized buoys each in the Burton and Dockton areas, some of them placed too close together and some that could create navigational hazards.
Several boaters living aboard illegally in the harbor have been contacted and moved, Randlette said. Last fall, DNR put tags on boats moored illegally in the harbor and asked their owners to apply for an authorized buoy. None has been authorized so far, but Randlette said DNR is hoping those boat owners and others will come to the workshop and provide feedback on the proposed mooring plan.
“We hope to hear what works, what doesn’t work, what hasn’t been considered,” she said.
The mooring plan is expected to accommodate at least the existing number of vessels currently moored in the harbor, Randlette said, and likely more.
DNR will be asking boaters who want an authorized buoy to install a proper system, with an embedded anchor and midline float, that won’t drag on the bottom and damage the eelgrass that provides food and shelter for marine life. The systems cost about $1,000 to $1,500, she said, and the DNR fee for a mooring buoy is $175 annually.
To help boaters out, Randlette said DNR will apply for the necessary permits from King County, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required for the mooring buoys.
The Quartermaster Harbor plans follow the establishment of the state’s first open-water marina in Eagle Harbor off Bainbridge Island in late 2010, which brought to an end more than a decade of negotiations and rancorous controversy over how to deal with liveaboards moored illegally.
Randlette said the Eagle Harbor experience underscored the need for DNR to work with the boating community to come with solutions both sides can agree on.
“We really want to work with the community,” she said. “We want to make it as streamlined and transparent and easy as possible.”