Approximately one-third of all the mooring buoys in the inland waters of Washington State are located in San Juan County and most are concentrated in bays that also support sensitive marine habitats such as eelgrass. Buoys that are properly sited and designed with modern methods provide a lower impact moorage alternative than docks or anchoring. However, a local study conducted in the late 1990s found that a majority of buoys in the county were harming eelgrass. Eelgrass is essential habitat for fish, crabs and other wildlife.
Replacing outdated mooring buoys, such as large or multiple anchor block and heavy chain systems, or relocating buoys away from eelgrass growing zones, can protect sensitive habitat. Funds are available to help interested private buoy owners upgrade or relocate buoys that are currently impacting these plants.
In 2011, Friends of the San Juans worked with two local buoy contractors and six private mooring buoy owners on Orcas and Lopez Islands to remove multiple unwanted buoys and floats from eelgrass and herring spawning areas. New, screw anchor moorage systems were installed just outside the eelgrass growing zones. Limited funding is still available for 2012. For more info, call 378-2319.