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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
(International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea)

       2.    Second, the seabed 
                TIDELANDS.     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 installation
of single, non-commercial mooring buoys without notification to the Corps.
Since 1999 notification prior to installation has been required when species
listed under the Endangered Species Act might be affected.  We can require
the removal or relocation of existing mooring buoys under the Rivers and
Harbors Act of 1899 when critical habitat such as eel grass, navigability, or
Indian fishing treaty rights are affected."

        Which leads us to the two types of possible moorings:  LEGAL AND NOT LEGAL.
        NOT-LEGAL MOORINGS.    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 illegal.  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 examples.
     Camano Sail and Power, LLC will not place moorings which lack all of the appropriate permits due to the risk to our Coast Guard license. 
     LEGAL MOORINGS    
     Tidelands.    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.
      Below 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 as of 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.
      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 mooring.
      For more details, see mooringsurveypermittinginstallation.html ,   mooringpicturesdiscussion.html, and mooringcosts.html