Washington boaters, I am really mad! Read the following and tell me
what we can do:
State will evict liveaboards
By Todd Westbrook, For The Sun
Local marinas on state waters will have to ban liveaboard residents
when their leases expire.
The clock is ticking for Washington residents who live on their boats
above state-owned waters, including hundreds in Kitsap County.
Officials with the Department of Natural Resources say marina and
anchor-out liveaboards over state bedlands will be forced to move,
sooner or later.
Acting on a 1984 law that directs DNR to manage state-owned aquatic
lands in favor of "water-dependent" uses, the agency that oversees all
public waters last week served eviction notices on 50 marina
liveaboards in Lake Union.
The action was the end result of a policy that applies to anyone living
in a boat over state waters, said Commissioner of Public Lands Jennifer
In Kitsap County alone, nearly 40 marinas hold a conservative estimate
of 300 liveaboards. The vast majority are located in state-owned
The DNR policy could force liveaboards throughout the waters and
marinas of West Sound to either seek moorage in the increasingly
crowded marinas over private water or give up life on their vessels.
Belcher said that while DNR was not actively pursuing compliance with
the 1984 law at this time, whenever the issues arises it will be dealt
with in a manner similar to that used in Lake Union.
"We are not out there looking for these people," she said. "But when we
come across people doing something illegal we are saying: you can't do
The Lake Union action, in which about 50 liveaboards have been given
until June to move, is the first time the 1984 law has been used to
force people off of their boats. Under that law, DNR is directed to
discourage any use of state-owned aquatic lands that is not strictly
dependent on the water itself.
That, according to Belcher, includes living on your boat.
"Living on a boat is not a water-dependent use," she said. "You can
Betsi Beem, a Bainbridge Island Harbor Commissioner and a marina
liveaboard, finds that notion absurd. "I can't think of anything more
water-dependent than a boat," she said. "I don't think this is an
Beem added that what happened in Lake Union should ring alarm bells
across the state.
"Every boater in Washington that is living on DNR bedlands should be
concerned," she said. "This is the first step in what will probably be
a statewide campaign to move people off of their boats."
Belcher offered no solace. "Do we really want to turn public lands ...
into places where people want to put up permanent residences? I think
the answer is no," she said.
Accordingly the agency will, when renegotiating bedlands leases with
marina owners, insist that liveaboard populations go.
"When the lease is up, they (the marinas) are going to be back in legal
compliance," Belcher said.
Liberty Bay Marina in Poulsbo renegotiated its lease with DNR in
September 1999. Under the terms of that document, the marina's
liveaboard population was capped at eight, said Ralph Swanson, property
manager of the firm that owns the marina.
"Our policy is we're not taking any more," Swanson said.
The same firm has a facility on Lake Union, Swanson said. Under the
terms of the same lease the four liveaboards residing at the company's
Lake Union facility are to be "phased out."
Swanson understood the necessity to restrict liveaboard communities
"obviously if you could allow liveaboards, you would fill your marina
overnight" but did not believe they were damaging the ecosystem, as
is sometimes claimed.
"In our marina liveaboards are a minor contaminant to what DNR imagines
them to be. The impact of a liveaboard is minor compared to 98 percent
of marina users that aren't liveaboards," Swanson said.
"The liveaboards we've had are more concerned about water quality than
anybody else we've had."
Whatever DNR's timetable, the idea isn't floating with liveaboards.
"People are concerned," Betsi Beem said. "What the DNR is doing is
destroying communities and neighborhoods. It is a gross injustice and
there is no logic behind it."