Summer fun on the river? Not without a life vest, says King County

Floating Valley rivers and lakes will be illegal without a life vest, starting next week.

As ordered by the King County Council, a new law requires anyone swimming or floating in a county river or lake to wear a life vest, as of July 1. Exceptions include anyone wading in less than five feet from shore or in water less than four feet deep, those swimming in dedicated public fishing areas, skin divers, and adults who are fishing.

First offenses mean a warning, but repeat offenders face an $86 fine.

The ordinance is temporary and expires on October 1.

King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert voted against the measure. In an e-mail to district residents, Lambert said she believes educating the public about dangers is more responsible than fining them.

"I do not believe it is the duty of the council to legislate common sense," she said. "I am concerned about diverting law enforcement resources to write tickets for failure to use a (vest), and if this new duty will leave deputies with less time to investigate more serious crimes. "

"This appears to be the strictest PFD (personal flotation device) ordinance ever enacted in the state of Washington," Larmbert stated. She says residents will need to make their views on the vests known later this year, when the county council discusses whether to make the requirement permanent.

"Several councilmembers already have indicated they want it permanent," she said.

In the last year, emergency responders have responded to three drownings in the Snoqualmie river.

Find a vest

For residents who need lifejackets, there are some low-cost options:

• Seattle Parks and Seattle Children’s Hospital sponsor once-a-month sales of lifejackets at Green Lake through summer. Adult lifejackets are $30; children’s are $20.

• Big 5 Sporting Goods partners with drowning prevention advocates to offer a 25-percent discount coupon for lifejackets at all stores statewide. Go the Seattle Children’s website and click on the Big 5 coupon for a downloadable coupon and details:

• Lifejacket loaners are available for a day or weekend at


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