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The goal of the Liveaboard Association of Puget Sound (LAPS) is to protect the right of boaters to live on their vessels in state waters.

It is LAPS’s position that boaters who live aboard their docked vessels are part of an old Seattle waterfront tradition, dating back over 100 years. Liveaboard boaters are a part of the color and richness that the waterfront adds to the city. Those boats and those boaters add to the atmosphere and to the attraction. This has been true since the early 1900s, even before the Ballard locks were completed, before the lake was raised to its present level.

Many marina owners, even though some limit the percentages of liveaboards they allow, believe that liveaboards help stabilize marinas, both in everyday situations and during emergencies. The tenants frequently adopt an attitude of stewardship, and watch over the surrounding waters. They treat the water as if it were their front yard, which it is, and a number donate their own time to keeping it clean, pulling out floating debris.

Initially, LAPS was formed as a response to eviction notices distributed in early March, 2000, by the management of three marinas on the west side of Lake Union. The evictions orders were dictated, according the marina’s management, by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, which manages the areas involved. Boaters were told that they must either remove their vessels from DNR-controlled land, or alternatively, that they stop using those vessels as residences. The action was directed specifically at the Lake Union properties, but according to DNR statements would eventually take in most or all state waters. Those boaters sitting on DNR land were given three and a half months notice. Removal was to be no later than June 30, 2000.

The basis for the action was quoted as being the 1984 Aquatic Lands Management Act, which the department argued prohibits residential use of state waters. LAPS members’ response to the claim had been that the department’s interpretation was based on vague language in the act, and was probably incorrect. The group resolved to resist the order, voting to go to court if necessary.

Responses

Each member of the association expressed his or her reaction to DNR’s demands differently, but generally their position has been similar. To quote one:

This action is going to cause a great deal of emotional and financial damage to a great many people. The emotional damage comes from the disruption of our lives. The financial damage is because this ruling is a sea change in the way we live, with no warning and little time to work out alternatives – if indeed, there are any. People in authority have been quoted as saying that the boaters, “Can just move.” This is absolutely untrue, and a few minutes with a telephone and the list of marinas in the yellow pages will prove that quickly.

Many of our members have lived on the water for years. And what happens is that after a short time of listening to the wind and waves and watching the boats go by and seeing the reflections of light, the birds, and the dramatic weather changes on the water… after that, the idea of sitting in an apartment looking at four stationary walls is a poor second.

These are not just handy places that we live in; this is a way of life.

DNR would most likely say that’s not the point. But it ought to be. And we think it is, because it is our lives that they fool around with so abruptly and so casually.

Table of Content

DNR Evictions

History of the Evictions

L.A.P.S HISTORICAL DATA

1984 — The legislature of the state of Washington debated management of state-owned aquatic lands for the previous three years and then enacted the Aquatic Lands Act (RCW 79.90) as part of the already existing Public Lands Act (RCW 79). The purpose of the Aquatic Lands Act was to set forth guidelines for use of state waters, to operate “… in conformance with constitutional and statutory requirements” and “… strive to provide a balance of public benefits for all citizens of the state.” The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was directed to manage various defined uses, among them “water-dependent”, “nonwater-dependent”, and “water-oriented” uses. ‘Moorage’ was listed among water-dependent uses. All nonwater-dependent uses listed were permanent structures (buildings). House boats were listed among water-oriented uses. There was no mention or prohibition made regarding the activity of living on board a navigable vessel, nor any prohibition against residential use in general. Note however that the DNR is bound by Washington Administrative Code, a set of statutory laws which did and still do support (and even promote) residential use on state-owned waters (WAC 332-30 139 and 142).

1992 — Jennifer Belcher (age 48) was elected Commissioner of Public Lands (one of the eight elected executive positions in the state of Washington). She therefore also acts as administrator of the DNR. Jennifer Belcher is from West Virginia.

1995 — The legislature took action to strictly stem the tide of out-of-control state agencies by passing the Regulatory Reform Act of 1995 (RCW 34.05.328), “… to ensure that the citizens and environment of this state receive the highest level of protection…”, and that:
(a) Unless otherwise authorized, substantial policy decisions affecting the public be made by those directly accountable to the public, namely the legislature, and that state agencies not use their administrative authority to create or amend regulatory programs;

(b) When an agency is authorized to adopt rules imposing obligations on the public, that it do so responsibly: The rules it adopts should be justified and reasonable, with the agency having determined, based on common sense criteria established by the legislature, that the obligations imposed are truly in the public interest;

(c) Governments at all levels better coordinate their regulatory efforts to avoid confusing and frustrating the public with overlapping or contradictory requirements;

1996, February 23 — Jennifer Belcher considered running for governor instead of a second term as commissioner.

1996, November — Jennifer Belcher re-elected to the post of Commissioner of Public Lands.

EVICTIONS

2000, March 7 — Although during the previous 16 years there was no move against liveaboards, a DNR-dictated eviction proceeding began, for all liveaboards leasing from Rainier Properties. Liveaboards at BoatWorld, WestLake and SwiftSure marinas (all on Lake Union) were sent notice from West and Wheeler (Diamond/ Rainier Properties, et al), by certified mail, and also with postings on boats. The notice stated:

“We have been notified by the Department of Natural Resources that we can no longer have live aboard tenants on DNR property as of June 30, 2000. Therefore, I am writing to inform you that we regrettably are unable to continue leasing you the moorage slip you are currently in. You will be required to vacate slip no later than 12:00 AM June 30, 2000.

2000, March 9 — Don Stonehill met with Elizabeth Monrean, who explained why they had issued the eviction notice, and that nothing could be done about it, except for us to get in touch with our legislators and the DNR. She also suggested that Don call Dennis Donner, which he did. Calls were made to various offices of DNR but no one there had any answers, except to say that Commissioner Belcher had issued the order.

Chairman Don Stonehill writes,

“After trying 7 times, and being unsuccessful in reaching Ms. Belcher, I told one of the staff that I was reporting on the story for 48 Degree North magazine and needed answers to my questions, or it would go to press without any comment from them. Sue Zemek from the DNR called me on Thursday, March 16th, and said that Ms. Belcher would call me that evening. I waited, and no call. Friday March 17th, Commissioner Belcher called at noon, and we talked for approximately 45 minutes. During that phone conversation, she made various statements, none of which made any sense. She stated that legislation was passed in 1984, setting forth how to manage the waters, and perpetuate “water dependent uses”, and that they (DNR) were discouraging non-water dependent uses. She said they wanted to assure navigation, and they wanted to encourage general public uses. She said that “liveaboards” prevent the general public from using marinas, and that liveaboards were not allowed to use marina slips for residential use. She stated that over the years, marina operators have illegally brought in residential uses, and that they were “trespassing” on public property. She said that encouraging residential uses has been in litigation for many many years. The matter with Diamond has come to a settlement agreement, plus, that Diamond has owed the state of Washington many thousands of dollars for a number of years. She stated that many people have been living illegally as trespassers, and that she was trying to deal — as they can –with “trespassers”. She stated she did not want to see Lake Union turn into a “Hong Kong Harbor”. No attrition offered. She said that Diamond was given a year, but that the agreement had not yet been signed. She said they had set up a very structured settlement, that if one chooses to live on a boat, they should live on their own property, not on public property. She said that Diamond had taken over from other owners, and did not have a lease in the past, that boat owners need places for boats to moor, so move the liveaboards and give those spaces to others who need them. She re-iterated that the law passed in 1984 says, there are not supposed to be any residential uses, except those floating homes that were grandfathered-in. She said that the DNR has been working on this for over 10 years or longer. Liveaboards can choose to live elsewhere, but they cannot occupy public land. Many other points were discussed, too numerous to mention here. I asked for an in-person meeting with her to discuss this further. She put me through to Meredith, who set up a meeting with her for Friday, March 31st at 10:00 AM, which Sue Zemek later canceled on Monday, March 27th, because — as Ms. Zemek stated — Commissioner Belcher had said I was being “deceitful” in my phone call to her on 3/17.

Calls were made to various Senators and Representatives. Some knew of Belcher’s actions, but said they thought there were many other places to move to. I told them there were not. For example, Shilshole Marina has a 2 year waiting list, and Des Moines Marina 5 years. They were surprised.

Discussed the issue with Tom Sante, and Gus Kostakos (Diamond Attorney) relating the conversations. They said they had asked for 5 years in which — if forced to — to implement the eviction of liveaboards, but that Belcher gave them only until June 30th. They said it was a decision they were forced to make, in order to continue to have a marina, and a lease with DNR. They said that the comments Commissioner Belcher had made to me were fraught with untruths and exaggerations.”

From this point on, a large amount of communication began, to investigate what could and should be done, to save the choice of the liveaboard lifestyle.

2000, March 18 — Don & Joanne Stonehill, Dennis & Julia Donner, Jim & Sharon Doub and Scott Fischer organized the first meeting of liveaboards at Doc Freeman’s in Seattle. There were 40 people in attendance. This meeting allowed liveaboards to meet one another, to determine whether to fight the evictions, and whether an attorney would be hired, etc.

2000, March 24 — A meeting was called by the DNR at the Rock Salt Steakhouse, where DNR representatives made a presentation of their position, and numerous questions from those in attendance were recorded. Jennifer Belcher did not attend. There were very few questions answered, and Mr. Don Krupp of the DNR (who reported that he had only been on the job 7 weeks) promised to provide answers the following week. The answers were finally sent to Don Stonehill after about three weeks (postmarked April 13th). In attendance from the DNR at this meeting: Don Krupp, Bonnie Bunning, Sue Zemek, and Lori Price. Approximately 50 liveaboards were there. Scott Sunde (a reporter from the Seattle P.I.) reported on the meeting. The DNR scheduled the meeting at 2:00 PM, which eliminated many who could not get away from work. The meeting lasted until 4:15 PM. Subsequent meetings the following week were held between the DNR and various other marina operators on Lake Union.

2000, March 25 — A second liveaboard meeting was held at Doc Freeman’s. It was decided that an association should be formed, and by unanimous vote the name Liveaboard Association of Puget Sound was chosen. Numerous committees and chairs of committees were decided upon. Bill Clark wrote up a mission statement. There were many items discussed, including the formation of a web site and listserve (email discussion group).

Much of the meeting was taken up discussing further action that the association would and should take, including the formation of a Legal Selection Committee to choose an attorney. Scott Fischer and his committee later interviewed many prominent and recommended attorneys, and finally selected Mr. “Mickey” Gendler, of the firm Briklin & Gendler, LLP. Gendler was notified, and said that he would start working on the matter.

2000, April 6 — Scott Fischer and Don Stonehill met with Mr. Gendler to outline thoughts, and discuss what the legal position would be. “Mickey” issued the following statement:

“We expect to take legal and political action to prevent the June 30th date from affecting people’s interest in their lifestyle. This would be a short term goal, while we work towards a long term goal to get a judicial declaration, that the liveaboard lifestyle IS valid, and stands on equal footing as a ‘water dependent use’, in common with any other moorage, and we will work towards a legislative solution to retain Seattle’s history as a waterfront community, throughout the State”.

Mr. Gendler stated that he had only one day to work on this issue, and would begin planning a strategy. He recommended that we should stay where we are, and not move!

It was further pointed out that this fight for the liveaboards to retain their lifestyle — and the legal position being taken — was for ALL liveaboards, and not just those on Lake Union, that what happened on Lake Union would also happen all over the state. Those on Lake Union will be the example for all other liveaboards to follow, since the outcome of a court case will set a precedent.

2000, April 7 — In an executive meeting it was decided to promote a rally at Gasworks Park on Friday, April 14th.

2000, April 10 — Doug Sutherland, candidate for Commissioner of Public Lands, sent the following release to the media:

April 10, 2000(425) 557-8223, (253) 475-5505

Lake Union Liveaboards: A Familiar Pattern For Jennifer Belcher Commissioner Tells Residents “They Can Live Somewhere Else”

Public Lands Commissioner Jennifer Belcher has told dozens of families who live on their boat in Lake Union to be out by June 30 or face the consequences. It is a familiar pattern for this Commissioner whose management style has been “my way or the highway” when it comes to problem solving.

At issue is a 1984 law which she has interpreted, sixteen years later, to mean that there can be no liveaboards in any marina on Department of Natural Resources land because they are not “water dependent.” The DNR, however, has existing non-water dependent tenants including the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle.

“This is typical of Jennifer’s problem solving technique,” said Pierce County Executive Doug Sutherland. “Her response to the liveaboards is that if they don’t like it, they can live somewhere else. With no space available at other marinas, and long waiting lists, that is tantamount to saying “let them eat cake.” She should be willing to do more to work with these families.

“It is unfortunate that her arrogance and inflexibility are affecting so many families, not just in Lake Union, but from Bellingham to Camas,” said Sutherland. “It is another reason I am running this year.”

Pierce County Executive Doug Sutherland is a Republican candidate for the Commissioner of Public Lands. In his seven years as County Executive, and eight years at Tacoma’s mayor, Doug has worked with many constituencies to clean Commencement Bay, bring Tacoma’s air up to federal standards, and his work with King County Executive Ron Simms and Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel to manage the impacts of local salmon on the endangered species list.

2000, April 14 — The rally was held at Gasworks Park with 200-250 people attending. KING-5, KOMO-4 & KIRO-7 television stations were there, taking video, and making onsite reports that appeared later that evening on news programs. Stories were also presented during Saturday news programs. Also in attendance were the Seattle PI, Seattle Times, Norwesting Magazine, Mickey Gendler, State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Senator Thibaudeau, and DNR Commissioner candidate Doug Sutherland, to mention only a few.

Eagle Harbor: That same day, Commissioner Belcher had called a press trip, and took the media to Eagle Harbor, pointing out areas she felt were causing problems. (See PI article). On television and newspaper reports, Ms. Belcher called those living there and elsewhere “squatters” and “trespassers”, living there “illegally”. She showed underwater photography of cans and old batteries, and said these were examples of what she was trying to clean up, that this type of thing had been going on for years. She did not, however, mention that the U.S. Coast Guard had been found guilty of dumping old batteries off the east coast into coastal waterways, nor did she mention that said underwater trash could have been from non-liveaboards, or from the ship-building facility that was there during the war. When a “superfund cleanup” was mentioned, Belcher and/or the media failed to point out that it was due to the creosote plant at the entrance to Eagle Harbor.

2000, April 16 — Don and Joanne Stonehill attended a meeting of the Tacoma liveaboard community and other areas from the South Sound who gathered at The Pegasus Restaurant in Tacoma. Over 100 people were in attendance. Don spoke, outlining the actions taken so far, and gave a review of all that had taken place since the matter began back on March 7th. Many who had sent emails and letters were there, including Debra Buchanon, Attorney, also a liveaboard, who has contributed greatly with legal thoughts and suggestions, assisting our attorney. Many asked questions and offered thoughts. It was suggested that we establish representatives from all outlying marinas and areas, and that they have one member from each area come to our general meetings. All are welcome of course, but many cannot make the frequent trips to Seattle, so each group will have their representative report back to them what is taking place. Sharon Doub designed and had T-shirts and sweatshirts created to support the effort. Donations in the amount of $500 were received towards the legal fund from those at the Tacoma meeting.

2000, April 18 — Don Stonehill was receiving at this time an average of about 20 phone calls per day, plus innumerable emails, with people asking what they can do to help, and how they can become involved. Some of the contacts come from non-boaters. Don has talked with 5 television stations, 6 newspapers, 4 radio stations, 4 magazines, and 2 national organizations about this issue to date.

Citizens have sent dozens of letters and email and made hundreds of phone calls to various media outlets, television, radio, newspapers and magazines. In addition, they have contacted State Representatives, Senators, Governor Locke, Mayor Schell, and many other legislative members that might be able to assist. Thousands of man-hours have been spent in getting the word out, in the fight to retain this valid lifestyle, and this is only the beginning. The Northwest Yacht Brokers Association (representing their 200 members) have sent letters to Governor Locke, Senators, Representatives, Mayor Schell and others.

2000, April 21 — Don Stonehill was asked by the President of the Puget Sound Marina Operators, Dell Berg to speak at the general meeting, along with Don Krupp and Bonnie Bunning of the DNR. The meeting was held at Johnnys Dock in Tacoma. Each were given time to make a presentation and receive questions. Only after Don’s presentation was a resounding applause given. No applause was given for Krupp’s statements. During the question and answer session, all of the Marina Operators and others present were in total disagreement with DNR’s position and comments, and totally in support of LAPS statements and position. Over 60 people were in attendance.

2000, May 8 — Jennifer Belcher surprisingly announced that she will not run for a third term, claiming that she had “decided six months ago not to run” but the claim contradicts the fact that she had hired a campaign staff, and the Democratic Party had already sent out a mailer in her behalf soliciting campaign donations.

2000, May 11 — New attorney selected, Richard M. Stephens, of the law firm of Groen Stephens & Klinge, LLP, to further pursue the legal challenge to the DNR’s actions. The parting with Mickey Gendler was amicable, and simply due to a possible political conflict of interest discovered within the lawfirm regarding related political dynamics.

2000, May 18 — Lawsuit filed by The Liveaboard Association of Puget Sound naming as defendants the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Commissioner of Public Lands, Jennifer Belcher, in King County Superior Court (Case Number 00-2-14338-9). The suit asks that the evictions be stopped. Specifically, the lawsuit asks for a judgment enjoining the DNR and Jennifer Belcher from enforcing terms of the lease agreement, contends that DNR has misinterpreted the law and that the court should “declare that living aboard a boat when moored on aquatic lands leased from the state is a legal use under state law, asks that DNR be prohibited from enforcing its interpretation of the law that covers “nonwater-dependent use” of state land until it has first followed “the statutory rule-making procedures” required by law, states that LAPS member’s rights have been violated under the state constitution, notes that boaters have been living on their boats in Washington waters for years and are caretakers and stewards for the marinas and water around them, and that they add color and charm to shoreline communities, and asserts that the state has failed to “substantially advance any legitimate state purpose, such as protecting the health, welfare or safety of the general public” as any basis for its actions. If the lawsuit does not bring about the desired result, an injunction will be sought, to prohibit enforcement until the legislature has had an opportunity to address the issue when it meets next, starting in January, 2001.

The same day, a meeting of the Puget Sound Marina Operators took place. Don Stonehill writes:

“I was invited to attend by Dell Berg, President. Speaking today was Doug Sutherland, candidate for Commissioner of The Department of Natural Resources. He is totally in favor of The Liveaboard Association of Puget Sound, and supports our efforts wholeheartedly. LAPS was applauded for our undying efforts in seeing the DNR policies scrapped, being appreciated both by the Marina Operators, as well as Doug Sutherland. The comment was made that LAPS has done more in these two months than any other group or effort has made for the boating community in the past 10 years. It was stated, that it took a group like ourselves, with the heart and drive to really stand up to the edicts of the government, and really do something about it, not just talk about it. They said this has given most all others the incentive to get behind us and help see it through. We were given glowing reports for our organization, follow through and the respectability that we have gained and kept since this began a short two months ago.”

2000, May 19 — Don Stonehill interviewed on the Dave Ross show, KIRO radio, 710 AM, during the 9 o’clock hour.

2000, May 22 — Olympia Yacht Club meeting was held, with liveaboards from surrounding marinas invited. Don Stonehill spoke, and had discussions with many of the 50 or 60 people there. Among those present were Washington State Treasurer, Michael J. Murphy (liveaboard), 4 attorneys (some liveaboards), and a very knowledable former DNR employee.

It was announced that the Washington State Liveaboard Association (which had previously battled the house boat issue) donated their remaining funds to the LAPS legal fund.

In the June 2000 issue of “SEA” magazine, there is an article about the “Liveaboard Lady”, Florence Henderson, from The Brady Bunch TV show, and presently co-host of the “Later Today” TV talk show. In July or August it is expected that SEA magazine will also be printing an article about our situation.

It was noted there is a 50 – 75% employee turn-over rate in the DNR office in the last couple years.

2000, June 7 — A general meeting (open to the public) was held on board the ferry Kalakala, on NE Northlake Way in Seattle. A “good news / bad news” announcement was made that the Attorney General’s office said they would not enforce the eviction notices, pending the outcome of the lawsuit. But in violation of the Regulatory Reform Act they would proceed to change the rule by defining liveaboards as nonwater-dependent and begin charging liveaboards a higher fee. The imposition of that fee was sent to liveaboards by marina operators on July 21, 2000.

Jeri Callahan presentated an overview of the history of the aquatic battle over the arena it had typically been fought — houseboats. Jeri conducts tours of the floating home neighborhoods on Lake Union. She credited much of her information about the history of houseboats to the book “Seattle’s Unsinkable Houseboats” by Howard Droker. Houseboats on Lake Union have dropped in number from around 2000 at one time to 483 today. In the early 1900’s, Government sources made efforts to evict them based on pollution concerns, but the accusations made very little sense while the cities themselves were pumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into the lakes. So the furor died down each time until 1938 when a completed sewer in the south part of Lake Washington left houseboats to be addressed as likely pollution sources. Chemical toilets or direct connection to the sewer system became a requirement.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles attended this meeting and advised that the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee is looking at the situation and would discuss it in the interim period until the legislature convenes on the second Monday of January, 2000. She encouraged a continuation of letters, phone calls and email to affected legislators to make them aware of the facts and legal points in the matter, and suggested inviting them to our homes so they can see the liveaboard lifestyle for themselves.

An announcement was made that Jennifer Belcher has arranged a boat trip on Lake Union for some of the legislators on June 15. No members of the media or the Liveaboard Association were invited.

2000, June 9 — An email from Seattle Mayor Paul Schell to a Liveaboard Association member outlines that he supports the DNR position.

2000, June 18 — David Horsey political cartoon on the topic appears in the Seattle Times.

2000, July 24 — Former Governor Mike Lowry joins eight others in the race for Commissioner of Public Lands by announcing he will also run for the office being vacated by Jennifer Belcher.

2000, June 29 — Liveaboard Association Chairman Don Stonehill was invited to attend and speak at the Northwest Marine Trade Association meeting, where he provided an update on the legal proceedings and answered many questions. The NMTA voiced its full support for liveaboards.

2000, August 10 — General meeting held at the Brown’s Point Improvement Club in Tacoma with 40-50 people in attendance. Updates were discussed as usual, including the current financial situation and future needs. Attorney Dick Stephens spoke at this meeting, with a review of the current and pending legal status.

2000, August 11 — A second lawsuit is filed by the Liveaboard Association of Puget Sound, in Pierce County Superior Court on behalf of boaters at Johnny’s Dock marina in Tacoma. Boaters at this marina were issued eviction notices dictated by the DNR lease-renewal policy.

2000, August 15 — The Northwest Marine Trade Association invited Don Stonehill to a meeting that included candidate Mike Lowry this time. Lowry offered a somewhat ambiguous position on the liveaboard issue stating he was for retaining liveaboards, but would recommend they pay “full amount” for that right, and said he wanted to investigate the possibility of “grandfathering” liveaboards and limiting the percentage of liveaboards at marinas. The notion of charging marinas and liveaboards a higher “full amount” for leases did not go over well with the audience, as nearly all who were present felt they were already paying too much. When Lowry had left the meeting, discussions with the NMTA board indicated that no one regarded Lowry’s statements to be clear or consistent.

2000, August 17 — Representative Jim Buck, co-chair of the House Natural Resources Committee sends a bipartisan petition signed by 30 other Republicans and Democrats to Jennifer Belcher stating that nothing in the law provides the department (DNR) with the right to require marinas to evict their residential tenants and asking the DNR to follow the proper rule-making procedures (involving the legislature, as required) in order to clarify state law regulating residential uses on state-owned aquatic lands. News Release.

2000, August 28 — Jennifer Belcher endorses Mike Lowry

2000, September 5 — A meeting was held between Mike Lowry, Don Stonehill, and three other association board members. Again Lowry’s answers to questions were ambivalent and ambiguous. He stated that he favors liveaboards remaining on DNR-leased property, but that he wanted to “study” it more. This time he said that he has reversed his thoughts on the matter of “grandfathering”, and now considers that to be a bad idea.

2000, September 13 — Republican candidate Doug Sutherland and Democratic candidate Georgia Gardner appear together for the same cause in a joint news conference they called with the Liveaboard Association of Puget Sound. Seattle P.I. article.

2000, September 19 — Doug Sutherland wins the Republican nomination in the primary election, and Mike Lowry wins the Democratic nomination.

In January, 2001, efforts were begun by the principals – LAPS, DNR and the Attorney General’s office – to settle the suit. This was based on the fact that there now is a change in DNR management and an agreement should be possible. LAPS’ attorney in this has been Richard M. Stephens of Groen Stephens and Klinge LLP, a Bellevue firm that does this kind of legal work. He has informed LAPS that there are still some issues to be settled. In addition, a bill (SB5037) was introduced into legislation in Olympia for this session that would resolve the liveaboard situation. It is now being held in abeyance, waiting to see if the Lands Commissioner’s office can accomplish the same ends. That particular solution had been promised but has not yet been achieved.

March 21, 2001, LAPS and Attorney Stephens met with DNR representatives, including its new Aquatic Steward, Fran McNair, and DNR’s attorney. Don Stonehill, LAPS chairman, and Lori O’Toole, a lawyer who is an active member of the LAPS board, were there on behalf of the liveaboard association. At the end of the meeting Stephens issued this statement: “The settlement discussions were productive and LAPS is hopeful that DNR will agree to LAPS’s conditions of settlement within the next couple of weeks. Commissioner Sutherland appears to be keeping his promise to reverse Jennifer Belcher’s policies. It remains to be seen whether DNR will pay for the expenses liveaboards have been forced to bear to defend against DNR.”

Fequently Asked Questions

What are the basics of the DNR argument?

The DNR is arguing that liveaboards are trespassing on public property based on a definition in the 1984 Aquatic Lands Act forbidding the construction of buildings on state-owned property on or near the shore. These are classed as non-water dependent uses (specifically citing “hotels, condominiums, apartments, restaurants, retail stores, and warehouses not part of a marine terminal”). When leases with the state are renewed or transferred, the DNR is refusing to renew the lease unless the marina prohibits liveaboards on the state-owned portion of the marina. Jennifer Belcher, the director of the DNR, has also made several other claims. These include the notion that residential use on vessels presumably cause pollution on the waterways, that they inhibit recreational boaters, and that they impede navigation (particularly in areas where boats are tied to anchoring buoys). The DNR has made statements that liveaboards do not pay enough rent (income for the DNR), and Belcher has made several calls for more staffing at the DNR during this campaign.

What is the flaw in this argument?

The laws of Washington do not prohibit residential use on a vessel over public waters, in fact, the laws *protect* such use. The definition used by the DNR shows intent by the legislature to keep *buildings* from blocking the shoreline and inhibiting enjoyment of the aquatic heritage in Washington. Washington Administrative Code explicity states that piers for residential use will be permitted, without any restriction as to frequency, and the DNR is directed to proactively establish anchorages for both residential and transient use (WAC 332-30). Liveaboards are therefore not trespassers, or “squatters”. Those at marinas have leases based on price per foot with additional DNR fees and liveaboard fees, and those costs are comparable to apartment life. Liveaboards are held to a higher standard in preventing pollution, and, as residents, are the ones who provide the best stewardship of the water. They offer the first line of defense against damage from storms or fire, provide security against theft and other crime, and are therefore a deterent to increases in insurance rates. Preventing people from the amount of time spent on their vessels would do nothing to improve navigation, since the vessels would remain on the water. It would do nothing to promote recreational use of Washington’s waters.

What are boaters doing in response?

– we have formed this Liveaboard Association
– hundreds of emails and letters are being sent to state politicians and to the press
– L.A.P.S. has hired an attorney and will take this issue to court
– the L.A.P.S. executive committee meets weekly, and we have general meetings monthly
– L.A.P.S. members have appeared on every major media outlet in the Puget Sound

How can I help?

  • Contribute to our legal defense fund
  • Volunteer on one of our action committees
  • Write or call your State Representative and Senators
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper

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