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Public Works - News

Posted on: April 22, 2021

What to expect this boating season

AIS check station

Boaters headed to either Lake Whatcom or Lake Samish this year will see policy in action, as Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham work together to protect shorelines and improve lake health, while ensuring swimmers and boaters are safe.

The two largest lakes in Whatcom County are important drinking water sources and home to recreational boating and year-round living. Regulations are in place at both lakes specifically to provide protection from: 1) Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS); 2) pollution from boat motors; and 3) shoreline erosion, while increasing swimmer safety. Enforcement is key to the success of these regulations.  

“These protections have been in place for some time at Lake Whatcom,” said Clare Fogelsong, Environmental Policy Manager with the City of Bellingham. “In addition to clean motors and speed limits, we jointly operate the AIS boat inspection program to ensure boaters are not unintentionally bringing in species that can harm lake water quality and damage water pipes, pumps and treatment equipment.” If introduced, these invasive species could also impact the lake’s ecology, reduce property values, and make recreational areas hazardous and uninviting.

“Updated boat speed limits, no-wake zone, and clean motor rules in place for Lake Samish protect swimmers and have the added benefits of protecting the lake’s shoreline from erosion and protecting water quality,” said Whatcom County Council Member Todd Donovan.

What you need to know for boating season:

  • Boat inspections begin Saturday, April 24 at Lake Samish, Bloedel Donovan Park, and Sudden Valley Marina. The Lake Whatcom South Bay station will open Sunday, May 2. Boaters must purchase their 2021 AIS permit online at cob.org/services/payments/boat-permits  before arriving at the launch for inspection. Once the boat passes inspection, the permit will be issued. Learn more about permitting and inspection station locations and hours online at whatcomboatinspections.com.
  • Boats must have low-emission engines. The clean engine requirement for both Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish means boats will burn 30-50% less gasoline, use up to 50% less oil, and will produce less noise and fumes. Before heading to the launch, check your motor label to make sure it has at least a one star rating for low emissions.
  • The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office has responsibility for enforcement of boating speeds and wake zones. Lower wakes help protect swimmers and other boaters, as well as reduce shoreline erosion. Since 2020 there is an increased law enforcement emphasis on ensuring boats have been through the required AIS permitting and inspection process.  


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