Motorized Watercraft Conversation

Throughout 2021, the Snohomish County Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) held conversations with property & boat owners and listened to the concerns about wake-surfing boats on our community's lakes. There was a strong public desire for education, code change, review of studies, and enforcement. DCNR took notes and collected damage data for the boating season. 

After reviewing the incidents' locations and reviewing the national conversation around this problem, it would be challenging to create an impactful prohibition of wake-surfing. Banning the sport on targeted lakes would not solve the issues with current code, enforcement levels, or the complexity of the emerging technology of the sport in the boating industry. Regulation is equally challenging due to enforcement challenges, current county code language, and rules that could impact other recreational activities. 

DCNR is still reviewing the data and comparing it with other metrics, such as lake levels compared to damage dates. We continue to work with our partners at WSU to review studies. Adding or creating buffers from shores and structures is a repeated recommendation from lake ecologists to mitigate damage and safety concerns. The data has examples of when the distance between buoys and shore is minimal; there were more reported incidents.   

By County Code Chapter 12.44, the Water Ski Associations could change the private buoys and move them farther from shore. The county would fully support and recommend that the association make these changes to the course layouts. It would be prudent to move course buoys 200' or greater from any structure or shore. The associations can also submit changes to their schedule; therefore, they can self-regulate the time recreational opportunities are available for different sports.

The county is taking the following actions:

  • DCNR will update the code to reflect the current recreational usage. Snohomish County Code Chapter 12.44 speaks only to water skiing. The definitions of the activities need updating in SCC 12.04.030.   
  • DCNR will message an "Own Your Wake" campaign surrounding the liability of an operator's wake. Damage from the watercraft's wake places the operator liable in many civil cases. This communication will go out on social media, webpage, mailers, and signage.   
  • DCNR will also communicate the appropriate waters for the sport and the correlation between higher lake levels and increased or more significant water damage.
  • DCNR has prepared to utilize 12.44.020(2)(c) to close the special use courses on Lake Roesiger, Flowing Lake, and Lake Shoecraft if conditions are hazardous.
  • DCNR will be working with each association to support the mapping of buoys and promote a further distance from structures and shore.  

New!Wave damage report map

In 2021, the County developed a tool for community members to report damage from wave action. These reports have been compiled into an interactive map. These results show when, where and how much damage is occurring and areas where damage is not occurring. The information will used to inform the community and decision makers as they figure out the next steps. This maps also shows existing locations of known locations of ski and other buoys and their distance from the shoreline.  


View the interactive map  -  CLICK HERE

To report damage for 2022 - CLICK HERE  

Past Meetings

November 26, 2020 - no recording available

February 25, 2020 - Zoom recording 

March 25, 2020 - Zoom recording 

April 24, 2021 - Zoom Recording (focused on Lake Roesiger)

June 24, 2021 - (focused on Lake Shoecraft and Flowing Lake)

July 22, 2021 - (focused on Lake Goodwin)

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions - See the most common themes, comments and questions discussed during the community meeting along with responses and additional information from the County and others involved in this topic. 

Current Boating Rules and Regulations - See a summary of the current boating regulations for Snohomish County lakes and a link to the appropriate County Code.

Own Your Wake Boater Education - As you enjoy our beautiful Snohomish County lakes, freshen up on some boating safety tips and make sure to control your wake. For everyone’s sake, own your wake!