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.