Docks & Boats  
Puget Sound has the highest per capita boat usage in the country. What we do as waterfront property owners and boaters can make a big impact on the health of our shorelines.

Docks Can Block Light

Docks can reduce the amount of light that reaches important aquatic life such as eelgrass meadows.

Eelgrass provides critical habitat for developing salmon, Dungeness crab, and Pacific herring. Several studies show that when light is blocked, eelgrass declines or dies. Both docks and moored boats can cause eelgrass decline by blocking light, studies suggest.

Docks along Bainbridge Island.
While each dock and boat may be small, the combined effect of many overwater structures can add up.
Pilings can also create depressions in sediments that discourages eelgrass growth. Alternative building materials for docks such as metal grating may let more light into the water and allow more eelgrass to survive. More study is needed, scientists say, on what materials work best.

Source: Puget Sound Research 95, Overwater Structures and Impacts On Eelgrass in Puget Sound, K. Fresh, et. al.

"Everyone who uses this pristine cruising ground
has a responsibility to take care of it."

Sound Watch: An Environmental Guide For Boaters,
48° North, A Sailing Magazine.

Boaters: Protect Puget Sound  
Puget Sound is a prime boating place. Over 500,000 boats are moored in the Puget Sound area permanently. An estimated 300,000 to 600,000 boats may be on the Sound annually. While one boater dumping oily bilge or sewage may not seem significant, on any weekend, there may be a crowd of people out on the water doing these things. The combined actions can add up. Dumping, propeller scouring, trawling, and scraping bottom - all can harm marine habitat.  
How Boaters Can Help

  • Pump - Don't dump
    It is illegal to dump untreated sewage into the water. Toilets on boats must be equipped with a Marine Sanitation Device (MSD). A pumpout map is available from the State Parks & Recreation Commission; call (360) 586-8592.

  • Dispose of trash properly
    Take your trash to the shore for proper disposal. Call the Coast Guard at (206) 286-5540 if you see any boat dumping plastics or trash into the water.

  • Don't pump out oily bilge
    Since bilge water often contains oily wastes, there is a temptation to add detergent to the bilge water and pump it overboard. The Coast Guard can impose fines of up to $10,000 for such activity. Fix oil leaks. Before pumping bilge water overboard, capture oil with pads, paper towels or old nylon stockings.

  • Paints can pollute
    Avoid cleaning boat hulls in the water. Boat hulls coated with copper paints should be hauled out of the water for scraping and cleaning. Copper and tributyltin (TBT) bottom paints, used to prevent fouling, can kill marine life. Copper can be especially toxic to fish.

  • Avoid toxic products
    Read the label. Avoid using toxic products. These products can damage or destroy marine life.

  • Give marine mammals room
    Boats should not come closer than 100 yards of marine mammals; do not harass, disturb, or separate mothers from offspring. Any boat that approaches too close to marine mammals is in violation of the United States Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and can be reported to National Marine Fisheries Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964.  

    Reduce Dock & Boat Impact

    • Share a dock or float with neighbors.
    • Build a smaller, floating dock which does not shade as much nearshore aquatic habitat.
    • Consider smaller paddle-powered boats; many do not need docks.
    • Haul out boats for hull cleaning.
    • While boating, reduce wakes, don't dump litter, sewage, or toxic materials. Keep a good distance from breeding birds, seal haul outs, and other wildlife.

    Related Topics

    Permits, Getting help with permits for construction.
    Public Access, Where you can go to explore the beach.

    Related Links

    Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Why does the Department of Fish and Wildlife care if you work near the water? Answers to frequently asked questions about shoreline construction and HPA approval.  

    Current Hydraulic Code Rules on Docks and Piers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. These Hydraulic Code Rules apply to the construction of piers, pilings, docks, floats, rafts, ramps, boathouses, houseboats, and associated moorings in saltwater.

    Clean Boating Web site, Oregon State Marine Board. Fact sheets on litter, fish waste, sewage, bilge care, and maintenance.  

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