King County requires life vests on major rivers

June 20, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 p.m. June 20, 2011

Summer starts Tuesday — and the season is prime time for river recreation, as people seek to beat the heat in boats, canoes, kayaks, inner tubes and more.

King County Council members adopted legislation Monday to require personal flotation devices on major King County rivers throughout the summer. The requirement is due to expire in October.

The measure requires people to wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device on portions of the Raging, Snoqualmie, Tolt, Cedar, Green, Skyhomish and White rivers in unincorporated areas.

The penalty is a warning for first-time violators; subsequent violators face $86 fines.

“Our rivers are beautiful and inviting this summer, but they are also deadly due to exceptionally high flows, cold temperatures, and rechannelization from winter floods,” Councilman Larry Phillips, sponsor and Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee chairman, said in a statement. “Requiring personal floatation devices will allow people to enjoy King County rivers while saving lives and life safety resources.”

The legislation passed in a split 5-4 decision. Issaquah’s representatives, Councilwoman Kathy Lambert and Councilman Reagan Dunn, did not support the measure.

Eastside Fire & Rescue board members endorsed the measure in early June. Sheriff Sue Rahr, and other public health and safety officials, also backed the requirement.

The ordinance calls for the county to post signs at primary access points to major rivers, and to join regional organizations focused on drowning prevent to promote life vest use. Enforcement is the responsibility of the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Though summer’s arrival is imminent, heavy mountain snowpack is expected to result in high water levels in rivers, as the snow melts during warmer weather. In addition, winter flooding changed contours in some King County rivers, creating undercut banks, and shifting woody debris and sediments.

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5 Responses to “King County requires life vests on major rivers”

  1. darron on June 21st, 2011 6:17 am

    Does this new law affect day use bank anglers or beach use picnics? Is there an age group that is affected, or does it apply to all ages? Or, does this only target tubers, floaters, and boaters? Thank you.

  2. Clint Fisher on June 21st, 2011 2:45 pm

    This law will make me, an otherwise law-abiding citizen, into a criminal. This law does nothing to improve public safety, and only undermines respect for law-enforcement and the rule of law. Council-members who voted YES on this un-American law should be ashamed of themselves and understand that they have just metaphorically spit in the face of every service-member who has fought and died defending this nation’s freedoms.

    I live next to an affected river in King County, and I swim in this river, inner-tube this river, snorkel in the river, and protect this river as much as I can.

    I can tell you from experience that a life vest law would not have helped ANY of the very few folks I have seen hurt in our stretch of the river. What hurts people in the river are the logs, branches and snags (ironically, King Co. added dozens, if not hundreds, of logs intentionally to the river as “Large woody debris” for salmon habitat), only exacerbating the hazard to humans.

    In many of these cases, a life vest is simply another thing to get snagged on branches and roots that can hold a person under-water to drown.

    I would wholeheartedly support an education campaign, crafted by actual river-users, to give people the river knowledge to avoid tragedy. But blanket-laws that criminalize fundamentally non-criminal behavior have NO PLACE IN AMERICA. They are flat out anti-American laws that would have our nation’s founders rolling in their graves.

    A hearty THANK YOU goes out to the council-members who stood up to this insanity and voted NO.

  3. Paul on June 21st, 2011 4:03 pm

    Pretty soon, we will have to wear life jackets in our own bathtubs and showers. Who will be responsible for enforcing that? The TSA?

  4. art valla on June 21st, 2011 5:29 pm

    Nanny State.

    No other explanation. My councilman, Bob Ferguson, has failed me again.

    Oh well. I always wanted to be an outlaw……

  5. Eric in Issaquah on June 22nd, 2011 12:25 pm

    What a joke. This is what you get when you have a County (and entire state, for that matter) run by ignorant, arrogant cowards. They seem to think they *own* these rivers (and the citizens, as well, for that matter). They intentionally place debris in the rivers in some areas to “promote healthy habitat” for fish, etc., then tell people they’ll be criminalized for swimming in them without a lfe jacket. WTF??? Hey, King County – I have an idea: GET THE HELL OUT OF MY LIFE, and QUIT MEDDLING WITH THE RIVERS!. Let nature do her job. And let the people make their own decisions on personal safety. What ever happened to PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY and COMMON SENSE?

    These idiots make me sick. Every time someone gets injured or killed in an accident, we get another ridiculous law shoved down our throats. These are the same cowards that are always running around spouting, “Save the earth! Save the planet! Humans are destroying it!!!” Really? Well, here’s some raw logic for you: If you really believe that, then how come you continue to BREED and bring more humans into the world? The epitome of hypocrisy. The epitome of idiocy.

    Come on people – grow up, and get a spine. No wonder we’ve got anarchists and other anti-government types literally coming out of the woodwork. It’s sick – every day it seems our county and state governments look more inept, completely clueless, and domineering. Every law we’re fed these days is based on emotional, knee-jerk reaction, rather than logic.

    I think it’s high time I moved out of this state, and left it to the morons who have destroyed it. It’s sad – 20 or 30 years ago it was a beautiful place to live. But now it’s an embarrassment to the world.

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