Opinion

City of Kirkland should adopt aquatic noise ordinance | Editorial

Boat enthusiasts flock to Lake Washington – especially the popular Juanita Bay – during the boating season to fish, water ski and for other recreational purposes.

For some, this signals the start of summer and a time to relax and have fun. For others, more boaters on the bay means irritating loud engines, obnoxious parties and loud music.

What’s a city to do to maintain balance for lakefront residents and park users who don’t want the noise nuisance, as well as boaters who say it’s no big deal?

The Kirkland City Council is considering a new aquatic noise ordinance and a draft ordinance is tentatively scheduled for June 5.

It’s a good move.

The city first adopted its current boating regulations in 1960. Many things have changed in 50-plus years, including technology and newer – and louder – boat engines.

Some believe the issue of adopting a noise ordinance is an assault on boaters’ personal freedoms (see Jim Scapinni’s letter below). But this leaves out the other side of the issue. Don’t homeowners and park users have the personal right to enjoy their freedom of peace and quiet?

An aquatic noise ordinance would help establish some ground rules for boaters, including what noise standards should be used at various times of day.

During the recent informational meeting at City Hall, some residents suggested that the city consider imposing a speed and time-of-day limit in Juanita Bay to curb engine noise. That’s a good idea too, as actually measuring decibels on the water is difficult, not to mention expensive for enforcement officials to have the right equipment to take those measurements.

Allowable noise levels should also be spelled out, whether it’s music, voices or engines.

How to enforce a new aquatic noise ordinance, of course, will be the city’s greatest challenge.

The city will have to decide how to measure noise, whether variances should be allowed for special events and whether to impose fines or criminal penalties for violations.

The economic timing is probably not right to employ more marine units to help patrol the lake. However, the Kirkland Police Department should partner with the King County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol and find a way to work together to curb noise. The city could also utilize residents who feel strongly about enforcement, perhaps creating some sort of volunteer patrol.

Public outreach is also necessary.

However a new noise ordinance pans out, the city should listen to all sides and strike a good balance.

 

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