Jet ski race may be doomed

By KRISTIN KINNAMON

Herald Writer

LAKE STEVENS – The Aquafest Jet Ski Tournament, still in its infancy, may soon be dead.

Politics and pollution could end the event after only its second year, Aquafest president Laura Reynoldssaid Friday.

The tournament is still set for July 30, but Reynolds had to convince the Lake Stevens City Council and Drainage District 8 that potential water pollution would be carefully limited.

The effort tired out the community volunteer.

"This may or may not be the last year," Reynolds said.

District 8 Commission Chairman Ken Withrow hopes it will be.

Last year he asked Lake Stevens to cancel the event two weeks before Aquafest. Then-mayor Jay Echols said it was unfair to target personal watercraft when other boats also pollute, and that it wouldn’t be right to cancel at such a late date.

Instead, staff of the drainage district tested for water pollution before and after the competition.

"There was nothing before and quite a bit after," Withrow said.

To help pinpoint whether fuel residue after Aquafest is any worse than other busy weekends on the lake, District 8 staff collected water samples last weekend to compare with this year’s Aquafest tests.

A wakeboard contest and water ski competition are also a part of Aquafest. The personal watercraft races drew about 20 contestants last year, Reynolds said.

Studies show that older two-cycle boat engines kick out up to 30 percent of their fuel unburned. The exhaust goes directly into the water and air. The chemicals are an ecological hazard, Withrow said, especially because the Jet Ski tournament is held in North Cove. The narrow area has the lake’s only outfall – into a salmon spawning stream.

"We have a small lake up here. It’s already in trouble," Withrow said. ‘We just see it as one more source of pollution for the lake."

To reduce the impacts of Aquafest, organizers will make sure personal watercraft don’t refuel on the lake, avoiding potential spills, and encourage the use of synthetic oil, which is more environmentally friendly.

Event sponsor Victory Motorsports will also inspect watercraft to make sure they’re running well, business owner Doug Ross said. He expects most of the competitors will have newer boats, which burn fuel more efficiently and so pollute less.

Ross said he cares about the lake where he and his kids swim.

"If they’re really concerned about pollution, they’re going to be attacking not just the personal watercraft, they’re going to be attacking it from all fronts," he said of the drainage district.

Lawn mowers, gas-powered weed trimmers, boats and lawn fertilizer also leak pollutants into Lake Stevens, he pointed out. Personal watercraft users are a small part of the problem, but it’s a group that’s easily attacked, Ross said.

Withrow agreed it’s the district’s responsibility to fight all sources of pollution. Jet skis have been banned at national parks and on other lakes where pollution or noise is a concern, he said.

District administrator Angela Busby said in a letter to the city that this year’s tests might even prove that the personal watercraft event is less a problem than normal boating on the lake.

Lake Stevens city administrator Dave O’Leary promised district commissioners in a letter that the city would host a public meeting this summer to review the findings and discuss the best way to lessen any environmental impacts. The city and Aquafest also committed to paying at least some of the estimated $1,000 cost of the testing and the placement of an absorbent boom at the lake’s outfall on Aquafest weekend.

The Lake Stevens City Council approved the Aquafest event permit last month and waived fees for it. The council included the testing and environmental protections in its approval, long-time city council member Gen Moore said.

The city, the drainage district and the Aquafest committee are cooperating, she said.

"The three entities are working to keep down the pollution and make it an event that everyone can enjoy and not damage the stream and the ecology," Moore said.

You can call Herald Writer Kristin Kinnamon at 425-339-3429or send e-mail to

kinnamon@heraldnet.com.

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