On July 12, 2021, Washington State Parks started a much-needed maintenance project for Marine Park Mooring Buoys. Replacement of anchoring components for park mooring buoys will last for several months, and is one of the most extensive assessment and maintenance projects in recent years by Washington State Parks.

Reid Parker was a featured guest speaker on Waggoner/Northwest Marine Trade Association webcast on July 8, 2021; these weekly Thursday evening webcasts are recorded and can be viewed on https://waggonerguide.com/seattle-boat-show-live/; scroll down the page to find the webcast entitled “Mooring Buoys – One of the Best Features of Washington State Marine Parks.” On the program, Reid shared information about work currently underway to ensure the safety and integrity of mooring facilities at marine parks.

Washington State Parks offers a number of mooring buoys, linear side ties, and mooring docks at marine parks throughout the State, with most mooring buoys located in Western Washington. Mooring facilities are provided for the boating public to ensure safe access to marine parks and to protect sensitive marine habitat like eelgrass. All state park mooring facilities are available on a first-come, first-served basis only. Mooring buoys are available for boats 45’ and under. There is currently no rafting on park buoys; this is a recent change and there may still be a few buoys marked with rafting limits.

Mooring Buoy showing boat size limit

Docks and linear moorage systems are available without restriction on a space available basis. Kiosks are provided onshore for self-registration and payment for mooring buoys, linear side-tie, and dock use from 1pm to 8am. At Jerrell Cove, a 2021 pilot program gives boaters the option to register and pay buoy fees by phone.

Sailboat on lineal side-tie mooring system

An assessment of all park mooring buoys was recently completed and documented so that work can begin, starting with the highest priority based on safety and need. The survey conducted in April of 2021 revealed that 58 of the 260 buoys are missing or in need of repair, while 153 of the 260 buoys are in satisfactory to fair condition. The assessment included evaluating the existing block and tackle buoy system, with a goal to upgrade to auger-style, today’s industry standard.

Parks has begun the planning and permitting process to replace and repair buoys. This process includes approvals from the Department of Fish & Wildlife, Army Corps of Engineers, respective County Governments, Department of Natural Resources, Tribal constituents, and suitability studies. The goal at this time is to repair and replace the existing buoy locations. There are no plans at this time to add additional buoys. The allowed boat size on mooring buoys will remain at 45-feet and under. Parks has engaged a contractor, with a multi-year contract, to routinely survey and evaluate mooring buoys to assess their condition in the coming years. Funding is currently not a constraint for the repair and replacement project.

Reid and his crew, with their 75-foot workboat, are based at Cornet Bay on Deception Pass. The Parks Marine Crew Division is responsible for maintaining docks, ramps, floats, buoys, and linear moorage at 50+ parks, 35 parks in Puget Sound alone. There are 260 mooring buoys in Western Washington marine parks in addition to facilities in Eastern Washington for which they are responsible.

Parks mooring buoys currently range in age and type with a few that are much older. Auger-style anchors are the industry standard today for mooring buoys. Auger-style anchors are seabed-friendly and designed for a more secure mooring. The older-style concrete-block anchors are no longer chosen for installation.

Diagram of auger mooring system

On-going repair work may affect moorage at some parks, with buoys temporarily out-of-service. Divers and workboats might ask boaters to vacate a buoy for maintenance crews to complete their work. Work is planned at the following locations on the dates noted:

Stuart Island, Reid Harbor – July 12, 2021
Spencer Spit – July 13, 2021
Stuart Island, Prevost Harbor – July 15, 2021
Matia Island –July 19, 2021
Patos Island –July 19, 2021
Sucia Island, Echo Bay – July 20, 2021
Blake Island – August 2–4, 2021
Illahee Park – August 2–4, 2021
South Puget Sound (locations to be determined) – August 23-25, 2021