Opinion

Harbor regs need scrutiny

As one could imagine, the proposed widening of the navigation channel at Port Madison during last Tuesday’s Harbor Commission meeting flopped like a spinnaker on a listless August day on Puget Sound.

Ross West, who represents Port Madison on the commission, faced a boatful of unhappy neighbors when he suggested it might be a good idea to widen the channel to 200 feet since it’s a strong possibility that the city will soon require the registration of all buoys on the island’s inland waters.

West was very civil and even apologetic in floating his proposal, but most of an estimated 40 or 50 people in attendance considered the idea “a solution looking for a problem.” The general take was that it sounded like bureaucracy run amok because there is no navigation problem. And when one occurs, it is solved neighbor to neighbor just as it has been since people started using Madison Bay centuries ago. Some said that people have been manuevering among anchored vessels for years without any problems, so, please, leave us alone.

When they asked West for proof that things weren’t working now, no one offered except West, who said he had bumped into a boat coming home one night. They scoffed when he admitted that he didn’t have a spotlight on his boat and said he should have one just like they all do.

Generally, they said, most of the boats that use the bay as home are docked unless the weather kicks up and they tie up to buoy for safety’s sake. One boater suggested that a 35-foot channel was adequate and another said that while it is legal to anchor temporarily, most responsible sailors would shun anchoring in a navigational channel, especially Madison Bay, which has several narrow spots.

In fact, permanent buoys are prohibited in navigation channels, which, if it were widened to 200 feet, explains why Port Madison boaters are aghast even at the suggestion of such a proposal.

Mark Julian, who chairs the commission, said West brought the proposal forward to see if people might favor of it. Julian said it’s clear now that residents and boaters aren’t interested in designating a channel, so the commission will drop the issue.

Why all this consternation? Partly because the city is in the process of establishing mooring buoy requirements, including registration, because of the ongoing problem with abandoned vessels. Too many boats have been neglected, which over time leads to them dragging anchor into navigable waters or sinking. With some 500 moorings estimated on the island and a tiny fraction of those actually registered with the state, Julian said registration and compliance would help go a long way to solving the problem.

As the city has analyzed the problem and potential solutions, the focus has been aimed primarily at activity in Eagle Harbor. The regulations probably would be island-wide, including Port Madison and other smaller harbors. As we all know, however, Port Madison and all of the island’s other inland waters are very different than Eagle Harbor.

These differences and the wishes of the people who use these waters should be taken into account before the city enacts any broad, island-wide ordinance.

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