Boat owners argue against water plan

By KARL SCHWEIZER

Herald Writer

EVERETT — A proposal to force boat owners to store their washing water in holding tanks rather than dumping it into Port Gardner Bay uncorked a storm of controversy Tuesday.

More than 80 boat owners who live on vessels in the Everett Marina crowded into a public hearing to bash the idea.

The plan to require storage of "gray water," nonsewage water used in washing and personal grooming, is part of the city planning commission’s proposed update to Everett’s rules governing development of its shoreline.

Boat owners complained that obeying the plan would be so difficult that most owners who live on vessels would be forced to move off them. They also complained that there is little evidence that gray water harms marine life.

"You are preparing to make homeless 200 or more people in Everett," said Larry Fields, a boat owner who has lived on his vessel for three years.

Most pleasure boats could not accommodate a holding tank large enough to store the gray water, said boat owner Frank Craven. Emptying the tanks could be a problem, too, because the city’s marina is not equipped to handle the gray water, which would be of far greater volume than the "black water," or sewage, that the marina now pumps away, Craven said.

Marina director Connie Bennett said the Port of Everett already has a plan to preserve water quality and protect marine life. That plan forces boat owners to prove that they are disposing of sewage properly, but does not require them to keep their gray water, she said. Instead, owners are encouraged to use biodegradable soaps.

Everett planning director Paul Roberts said the city is only trying to meet standards set by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Even if the planning commission drops the plan to bottle up gray water, federal agencies will want proof that the boaters’ water is not harming marine life, said commissioner Mark Wolken. That means it’s possible that the storage requirement wouldn’t go into effect, but owners could count on some sort of water quality monitoring program, he said.

The planning commission will take more comments on its shoreline management plan at a Nov. 28 hearing.

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