Buoy line would keep motor craft in center of Lake Stevens

LAKE STEVENS — People are invited to share their thoughts on a proposal to put in a buoy line around the lake here.

A public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday to talk about the possibility of adding a marked water safety lane on Lake Stevens. The gathering is at the Lake Stevens Community Center next to City Hall at 1808 Main St.

City planners and police are putting on the meeting. This is the first time the proposal is being formally presented to local leaders and the public, city administrator Gene Brazel said.

The lane would be an area around the perimeter of the lake that would be a no-wake zone for boaters, keeping the water there calmer for non-motorized activities, assistant planner Jill Meis said. The city is looking for comments on how wide the lane might be and how far apart buoys should be spaced, she said. The buoys would be spaced out far enough to avoid looking like an odd, aquatic picket fence disrupting the lake, Brazel said.

The city has received comments from people with concerns about safety on the lake, Brazel said. They worried about motorized watercraft colliding with swimmers or non-motorized lake equipment such as paddleboards. The lake gets busy in the hot summer months, with a variety of activities in and on the water. There are multiple beaches and docks with access for swimming, and the lake is used by recreational boaters and competitive rowers. It’s the largest natural lake in Snohomish County and covers more than 1,000 surface acres, with depths of up to 150 feet, according to the county.

No final decisions have been made on whether or when to add a safety lane.

If city leaders and people from the community express interest, the Lake Stevens City Council still would need to review plans and vote. An update to the budget would be needed if anything were to be done this year, Brazel said.

“It’s super preliminary,” he said. “We’re really wanting to get feedback on whether this is something we even want to pursue.”

Some homeowners and lake users are concerned, said Joe Sutton, who has lived along the lake and has been boating, kayaking and water skiing on it for years. He’s worried the buoy line would be expensive to install, maintain and enforce, especially when the lake only is heavily used for a few months of the year.

Forcing motorized boats into the center of the lake could increase collisions, he said, and the buoys themselves could pose a risk for collisions. He feels there are better options than a buoy line. Public outreach about boating and water safety, or increased signs along the lake cautioning users to be careful and obey boating rules, would be more affordable and less disruptive, he said.

“We’re all about representative democracy. If the majority of the users of the lake say this is a great idea, then we do it,” Sutton said. “But we want other options considered.”

Some of the comments planners hope to gather include: whether people support or oppose the idea of a buoy line; what distance from shore would be appropriate; and whether people who live near or spend time on the lake have concerns about the way the buoy line might look or if it would disrupt certain groups or activities.

“The city wants to take everybody’s use of the lake into account,” Meis said. “There are uses on the lake that we might not even know about yet. We want to know if the public sees a constraint, a pro or a con, that we haven’t weighed yet.”

For those who cannot attend the meeting, questions or suggestions can be emailed to jmeis@lakestevenswa.gov.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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