New boating restrictions passed in Washington

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – A group opposed to boating restrictions on Washington state’s Lake Whatcom may file a court challenge to a law passed Tuesday by Whatcom County officials that will phase out the use of two-stroke boat engines on the lake beginning in 2009.

But the group said it will ask the county for a full legal review of its ability to limit the kinds of boats that operate on the lake before any court action is taken, according to a story in today’s Bellingham Herald.

The Healthy Community Campaign believes that under state law, boat regulations, for the purpose of regulating pollution, could only be imposed by the state Department of Ecology. The group also has challenged whether boating has any effect on the lake’s water quality, the newspaper reported.

Whatcom Council members who voted for the new law said the ban would remove the most-polluting boats from the lake, which is the drinking water source for 85,700 people, according to the Herald.

Max Legg, co-chair of the Healthy Community Campaign, told the newspaper there are no exact figures on how many boats would be affected by the ban, but said there are about 8,000 registered boats in Whatcom County. The group estimates that there are about 3,500 to 4,500 boat owners that use some form of two-stroke engines that would be forced off the lake in either 2009 or 2013.

But boat dealers in the area said they don’t expect the new law to affect their sales significantly, the newspaper reported.

“In the next five years, there’s not going to be many two-strokes on the water anyway,” said Pete Foti, owner of West Coast Marine Services. “We think they did the right thing by giving people time to make plans.”

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