Watercraft Noise Subject to Kirkland’s Public Disturbance Laws

Council approves amendment intended to mitigate disturbances from lake


 On June 5, 2012, the Kirkland City Council extended the City’s existing noise ordinance to watercrafts. Under the amendment, the City will now regulate noise from public waterways in the same way it currently regulates noise from automobiles—with one primary difference: For watercraft, the amendment allows noise that is audible up to 300 feet from the watercraft. For automobiles, the existing regulation allows noise that is audible up to 50 feet from the automobile.


“Noise tends to travel more easily over water,” said Kirkland Police Captain Bill Hamilton. “That’s why there’s a difference in the lengths.”


Most local governments throughout Puget Sound protect their residents from excessive noise using a variety of tools. Bonney Lake, for example, uses a noise ordinance, similar to Kirkland’s new ordinance. Through city ordinances, Seattle regulates watercraft noise as well as anchoring. And Pierce County uses a noise, anchoring, rafting, and speed ordinance. Until Kirkland’s new regulations take effect, the only method through which Kirkland could regulate watercraft noise was a speed regulation.


“The amendment’s intent is to provide law enforcement officers with a tool that will allow them to respond to community noise concerns—be it on water or land,” Hamilton said. King County Marine Patrol will be the primary agency enforcing the ordinance on Kirkland’s behalf in Lake Washington.


The watercraft amendment resulted from the City’s comprehensive outreach effort aimed at addressing concerns from lakefront and surrounding neighborhoods about boat noise while continuing to encourage water-based recreation. The new regulations were drafted based upon public feedback, primarily received at a community meeting in early May. The City Council directed Kirkland’s police department to monitor the amendment’s affects throughout the summer and report back in the fall.


The amendment will become effective  by June 16, 2012. City staff will post the new regulations at Kirkland’s boat launches, including Marina Park, Juanita Beach and Juanita Bay. The regulations will also be the subject of neighborhood meetings, and various City of Kirkland media.


The City will continue its outreach efforts with stakeholders to take a further look at its current watercraft regulations to best address other concerns such as safety, speed, and rafting.  For background information, please visit www.kirklandwa.gov/watercraftsafety.