Cost-share program helps buoy owners restore eelgrass

Boaters interested in greening their mooring buoys can now save some green doing so.

In 2009, Friends of the San Juans received a grant from the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board to map buoys in San Juan County and develop a cost-share program for mooring buoy owners to retrofit buoys in priority areas of the county.

Friends' cost-share program will provide financial and technical assistance, including permitting, to eligible participants.

“The pilot project is really a great opportunity, a win-win for the marine environment and boaters,” FRIENDS Science Director Tina Whitman said. "It’s low cost, directly benefits habitat, and still fully supports the boaters need for safe and secure moorage. As a pilot, we’re looking for people to get involved and help make this program a success.”

Friends sought funding for the project because of the high numbers of buoys in the county, and their concentrations in embayments that also support sensitive marine habitats such as eelgrass. While buoys that are properly sited and designed with modern methods provide a lower impact moorage alternative than docks or anchoring, a local study conducted in the late 1990s found that a majority of buoys were harming eelgrass.

San Juan County has one third of all the mooring buoys in Washington’s inland waters and, according to Friends, many of them are located in sensitive marine habitats including eelgrass, herring spawning grounds and the shallow water that juvenile salmon depend on for feeding and resting on their seaward migration. The organization found 1,914 buoys when it conducted field surveys of San Juan County waters in 2009.

For more information on how to participate, contact Friends at 378-2319. Visit

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