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Boat safety ordinances are signed

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By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

The Pierce County Council has approved three boat management ordinances to help enforcement and safety on Lake Tapps.

The new laws are designed to give Pierce County Sheriff's deputies and Bonney Lake police officers the ability to better control rafting parties on the lake, enforce speed limits and regulate noise including excessively loud music.

Speed limits on open part of lake will be 60 mph and 5 mph within 200 feet of shore, docks or bridges.

Rafting or tying vessels together will be prohibited within 500 feet of the shore, except in designated areas along dike four, around the corner from North Lake Tapps Park

Boat stereos can not be loud enough to be heard 50 feet away.

County Council staff member Steve Gross said the ordinances came out of the boat management plan which was crafted through the work of an ad-hoc committee that was created by a July 2004 County Council resolution.

"Rafting parties, speed and noise are equally important," Gross said. "Much of the public testimony we heard centered on the rafting issue. Other ordinances may be written later."

The committee included property owners on the lake, recreation users not living on the lake, boat sales and repair industry representatives, Puget Sound Energy, the Bonney Lake Police Department and East Pierce Fire and Rescue representatives. The committee was supported by the Pierce County Planning and Land Services Department, Sheriff's Department and Park and Recreation Services Department.

"I think this is an honest start to help us create a safe environment for boats," County Councilman Shawn Bunney said. "We intend to implement it in its full form."

Gross said the ordinances were signed by County Executive John Ladenburg June 22 and will take effect July 1.

Pierce County Sheriff's deputies will be handing out fliers describing the ordinances before the weekend.

The rafting ordinance allows officers to prohibit large parties where boats are tied together. Problems with rafting parties have included public drunkenness, fighting and generally offensive behavior.

Excessive speed has been a constant problem for officers patrolling the lake. According to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, nearly every serious accident on the lake has been related to excessive speed.

The noise ordinance permits deputies and Bonney Lake Police Department marine unit personnel to cite boaters with loud stereos.

Bunney said funds to help implement enforcement have been budgeted by the council.

"The design is to have this all in effect by July 4 weekend," Bunney said. "We want people to know the new laws are in place."

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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