Home Community The Buoys Are Back in Town

The Buoys Are Back in Town

by Eva Seelye

Sea plans on Lake WashingtonThis time last year, the City of Seattle installed a series of seaplane advisory buoys in Lake Union to manage seaplane, boat, and other watercraft traffic during busy season. This year, the Department of Natural Resources granted the City of Seattle a permit to install this on-water runway of sorts once again, and just like last year, the buoys were installed prior to Memorial Day and will remain in place through Labor Day weekend.

It’s no secret that boating in Lake Union can get swirly during the summer months, and with kayakers, power boaters, paddleboarders, sailors, crew teams, house boats, seaplanes, and more floating about, it’s extremely important to know the rules of the road to promote safe boating and ensure a happy-go-lucky day.

The buoy addition is the City’s experimental way to encourage and facilitate communication between pilots and captains and to keep on-water safety a top priority. The line of five north-to-south buoys in the center of Lake Union doesn’t alter the right to our public waters and on-water rules, but merely acts as a notification system to alert boaters of incoming seaplanes.

When the buoys flash, boaters are asked to move 200 feet east or west of the buoy centerline if it’s safe and easy to do so. The lights will begin flashing two to three minutes before landing or takeoff to notify surrounding boaters of future seaplane activity, and after the seaplanes are out of the way, the flashing subsides, and boaters will know it’s safe to mill about once more. If all goes as well as last year, these buoys could eliminate that fear of a too-close-for-comfort seaplane encounter and save the pilots some tricky landings.

Seaplanes are a Lake Union mainstay and have shared these waters for years; 103 years ago this June, Bill Boeing took off in his first seaplane flight from Lake Union.

But even so, some boaters and local paddle business owners aren’t as enthused as the seaplane companies, expressing their qualified concerns for limited space and difficulties getting around. It’s a balance the City has, and must continue, to carefully navigate, what with Seattle’s constant growth and increasing boat traffic over the years. What’s your take? Shoot us a letter at editorial@nwyachting.com, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

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1 comment

Tom June 5, 2019 - 15:51

Why is it that we, the citizens, should be expected to give up control of the Lake to corporate interests? Kenmore Air has been able to fly tourists around for years without the need for this runway, but then a few years after Amazon puts in it’s Vancouver satellite campus (and last years announcement that it is expanding that campus even more!), well now there seems to be a need to expand the flights out of Lake Union. If this were just more tourists, then they could run those flights out of Lake Washington or Boeing Field. This is almost certainly business executives who don’t want to deal with traffic (and lets not forget that it is many of these same business interests that have fueled the regions traffic issues and have fought against the political solutions to the issues because they did not want to pay the taxes.

Right now, moving away fro the buoys is voluntary, but how long until they make it mandatory. We, the citizen owners of this precious resource need to oppose this expansion at all costs. This is not their private corporate resource, it belongs to the public and it should be for the public.


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