Back to the first page of this website
LAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS CONTROLLING THE PLACEMENT OF MOORINGS IN PUGET SOUND
The first thing to understand is WHO CONTROLS THE RIGHTS OF USEAGE OF THE WATERS AND THE SEABED OF PUGET SOUND
1. First, the waters.
Generally speaking, all of the waters of Puget Sound are subject
to the laws and rules of the U.S., the State, the U.S. Coast Guard and
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and are considered "navigable
waterways" under U.S. law. They are subject to international
navigation rules known as the COLREGS
for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea)
2. Second, the seabed
In Washington State, a large percentage of the seabed out
to a line defined as "extreme low tide line", is owned by the "uplands" owner, i.e. the owners of the land
coming down to the shore. State DNR publication These seabeds are called by most people
the "tidelands." These are therefore "private property."
SEABED BEYOND OR DEEPER THAN "EXTREME LOW TIDE LINE."
This is the seabed that is always covered by water.
It is owned by the State of Washington and managed by the
Washington State Department of Natural Resources. The DNR in turn
is obligated to work with other "interested parties" e.g.
the US Coast Guard, US Army Corps of Engineers, Washington State
Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries, county government and
sometimes the Tribes and others to be sure that the
use of the seabed by anyone does not infringe on the rights or uses of
others and does not negatively affect marine plants and animals.
HOWEVER, in the case of moorings, the state
considers that the owner of the adjoining uplands and tidelands has
some precedence in the use of the non-tidal seabed, between the two
property lines projected seaward from the owner's uplands property, as long as that use does not unduly interfere with the rights of other users of the surrounding waters.
Before we go any
further, the issue is further clouded by changes that have been and are
in the process of being made to remove some of the ambiguity from the
law as viewed by the various agencies and jurisdictions. The
following is information from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2011:
"Between 1991 and 1999, Nationwide Permit 10 generally authorized
Which leads us to the two types of possible moorings: LEGAL AND NOT LEGAL.
Since 1999, any mooring which has been placed anywhere in marine waters adjacent to Washington State,
in waters that are beyond the extreme low water, i.e. in a location
that never dries out between tides, without a permit from the state, is illegal, unless
the citizen who places and owns the mooring can prove some sort of
ownership of that seabed, which in this state for a private citizen is
not likely. There are a number of contractors who will be happy
to come out and drop an anchor, usually a one-ton ecology block, with
chain and a buoy, anywhere you tell them to drop it. Or boat
owners have used a variety of ingenious methods of floating out
and sinking various kinds of weights with attached chain and buoy. The
truth is that the majority of moorings in this state are
Although state resources for enforcing the law have been very weak
and citations for such violations seem to be rare,
recent legislation in Olympia is slowly changing that. It
is expected that there will be more oversight and citations as time
goes on. Two of the driving issues are the large number of
abandoned moorings and, worse, abandoned boats that litter our state's
waterways. And of perhaps even greater importance, the very
negative impact the majority of illegal moorings have on the eelgrass
and macroalgae (kelp) beds that are crucial to the wellbeing of our
salmon and many other fish species.
All of the small bays around Puget Sound have multitudes of
moorings, with a majority lacking formal state
permits. Around Camano Island, the shallows in front of the
Country Club and just off the county park at Utsalady are prime
Camano Sail and Power, LLC will not place moorings which lack all
of the appropriate permits due to the risk to our Coast Guard
If you are the owner of tidelands, you may install a mooring anchor on
that part of the seabed that lies above extreme low water, i.e. on
seabed that dries out during one of the lowest of tides, without a
permit. If you do not own the tidelands, then clearly you need
the permission of the owner of those tidelands.
Normally, in Island County, that will
be an approval of the
eelgrass/macroalgae survey, issued by Fish and Wildlife, approval by
the Army Corps of Engineers, and approval and issuance of the actual
lease agreement from the Department of Natural Resources. Island
County does not get involved in the placement of moorings as of
information received from the Department of Planning in 2011.That is, in waters that never dry out. First, you must be
the owner of the adjoining uplands. Second, you need a permit
from the state Department of Natural Resources. Our information
2009 is that they will allow one mooring per waterfront lot at no DNR
charge beyond the fees for the initial permit. We believe that
additional moorings per one lot will be charged an annual lease
fee. In order for the DNR to grant a permit, they need the
approval of the state department of Fish and Wildlife that an
appropriate eelgrass and
macroalgae survey has been done and that the mooring will not be closer
than 25 feet to either of these species. Additionally, a permit
is required from the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
of single, non-commercial mooring buoys without notification to
Since 1999 notification prior to installation has been required
listed under the Endangered Species Act might be affected. We
the removal or relocation of existing mooring buoys under the
Harbors Act of 1899 when critical habitat such as eel grass,
Indian fishing treaty rights are affected."
HOW TO GET A LEGAL MOORING
Camano Sail and Power, working with a local habitat specialty company, Island Botanical Services,
offers the complete package that results in a legal mooring placement
for you and your boat. We do the initial and final habitat
survey, complete all requisite applications, and design and install the
For more details, see mooringsurveypermittinginstallation.html , mooringpicturesdiscussion.html, and mooringcosts.html