Home On Watch On Watch: Westlake and the No Discharge Zone

On Watch: Westlake and the No Discharge Zone

by Peter Schrappen

Like any good buffet, the boating and government affairs arena overflows with a large assortment that can sometimes seem overwhelming. State legislative issues, federal regulations, city and county noise ordinances, outreach efforts about zebra and quagga mussels, and on and on.

Without a process for prioritizing around a core set of organizing principals, I’d lose it. OK, lose it even more.

Two items have found their way onto my plate recently.

The first involves the Westlake area of Seattle and working with members of that community (the Westlake Stakeholders Group) to keep a bike superhighway from being built in their front yard. The second is to oppose the No Discharge Zone that the state Department of Ecology is asking the feds to approve.

On the surface, the two may seem quite different. The former has to do with parking, access and the maritime sector within Seattle; the latter with water-quality standards and increased regulations.

But both are actually served from the same platter. They start with a“Here’s-what-we’d-like-to-do-toyour- world” sentiment (as opposed to “How can we work on these issues together?”).They demand the need for speed, which always raises my unease. And they deprioritize the working waterfront.

As part of Seattle’s $500 million Bike Master Plan, there was a rush to create a dedicated bike lane for high-speed bicyclists in the heart of Westlake. (Did you know that more than 300 floating homes and liveaboards, 19 marinas and 1,200 boats call Westlake home? Neither did the Bike Master Plan’s chief architect, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.)

Onto the No Discharge Zone, the Department of Ecology was also looking to move quickly with this plan. That is, until Gov. Inslee’s maritime lead Steve Sewell (and other key industry leaders and boaters) stepped in to postpone the public comment period.

But I just sent you through two rabbit holes pretty quickly. Let me back up.


You may remember from last month’s column that the Westlake development came as a shock to those who live, play and work there, including its 20 boat dealerships and brokerages and their 1,000 employees. The Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle’s Department of Transportation and Councilmember Rasmussen worked together on a number of bike paths for the city. The one that affects us most is Westlake.

Fortunately, residents, property owners and boaters stepped forward as the Westlake Stakeholders Group, hired a top-notch attorney and acted as quickly as they could before Councilmember Rasmussen rammed these changes through.

The Westlake Stakeholders had only one tool available: Appeal the entire Bike Master Plan. We won a seat at the table to help determine what the future of Westlake looks like.

You might be thinking: You’re kidding me. You “won” by getting a say in what will be proposed? In this line of work, a small victory is a big victory.

Without Councilmember Sally Bagshaw embracing us and cutting through the complexity, we would have lost. Stay tuned, but it goes to the importance of just finding one champion; then getting out of the way to let her work.

The maritime values that you and I hold dear are pitted against the biking priorities the Cascade Bicycle Club, a very well-funded, well-organized group. This has the makings of a great back-and-forth story.

No Discharge Zone

The Department of Ecology has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to designate Puget Sound (including Lake Washington and Lake Union) a No Discharge Zone. This proposal applies to boats with Type-I and Type-2 Marine Sanitation Devices. Currently, if you have traded up for this technology, you can release this effluent into Puget Sound. That will change, however, if the EPA approves a No Discharge Zone.

This regulation would not apply to the vast majority of boats (since most boats have holding tanks and are not allowed to discharge within 3 miles of the shore)or to gray water. Or as some reading this would say, “It doesn’t apply to gray water, yet.”

Why the need for a No Discharge Zone? The Department of Ecology would tell you that Types 1 and 2 do not achieve results meeting our state’s water-quality standards. These devices get to 200 parts per million of fecal coliform cholliform versus our state standard of 14 parts per million.

What can be done?

Form a big tent. The Westlake Stakeholders have all sorts of interests around the table. For the No Discharge Zone, tugboat operators, Northwest Marine Trade Association and the Recreational Boating Association of Washington (RBAW) have teamed up. A working waterfront is a terrible thing to waste.

Cue dramatic segue music. For both Westlake and the No Discharge Zone, boaters and marine trades have a right to be as mad ashell and not want take it anymore.

But when I say mad, I don’t really mean mad. Angry communications with elected officials never work. It’s all Dale Carnegie with them. They need to be reminded that we share their values.

When it comes to water quality and going after threats to salmon and clean water, we (that’s you) have done more than any other state, country or planet in the universe: In Olympia, boaters and boating businesses championed phasing out copper-bottom paint by Jan.1,2020. Boatyards are complying more than ever with the nation’s toughest Boatyard Permit. The Clean Boating Foundation is working shoulder to shoulder with boaters and businesses to get our water clean (Full disclosure: I run the Clean Boating Foundation in my free time).

As far as I’m concerned, let’s see how that plays out before we put forward another round of regulations.

So, what can you do? If you are interested in Westlake, head over to www.westlakestakeholders.com and get on the email list. Donate to the group. They (including me) have poured in hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars, and we are just now getting to the main course.. Thank Councilmember Bagshaw for her work thus far and ask her to remain engaged.

For the No Discharge Zone, you still have time to comment. If you’d like me to review your comments before you submit them, contact me at peter@nmta.net. You have until April 21, and comments can be emailed to Amy Jankowiak at the Department of Ecology (amy.jankowiak@ecy.wa.gov). As always, thanks for reading. The time has come to get off the menu and post up at the buffet line!

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