Guest Column: Unlawful tourist Jet Ski Operator in San Juan waters
- Written by Eric Rahkola
A couple years ago while I was on Center Island, I saw a large group of Jet Skis come through Lopez Pass and into Lopez Sound. Since 1998 when San Juan County Ordinance 10.28.120 was upheld by the Washington State Supreme Court, this was the first time I had seen Jet Skis around the islands. Hearing all the noise they made as they passed, I understood why the ban became law.
I saw that all the vessels had the same logos and thought that they might be with a commercial operator. Doing a little investigation, I found the company:
Dangerous Water Adventures
Located in Ballard and Registered in Juneau.
The company provides guided Jet Ski tours in Alaska. They keep their boats in Ballard during the winter and offer a $9,900 per person trip to move the boats to Alaska for the season. They offer a similar return trip for the winter. It’s during these transit tours that the large group comes through San Juan County waters. This year, the trip up is on June 1, 2023. The return trip will arrive October 7, 2023. During their spring trips they depart Edmonds in the morning going through Deception Pass and entering Lopez Pass around noon.
After seeing them a couple years ago, I contacted the company on their Facebook page and commented that it looked like fun but told them that San Juan County waters were closed to Jet Ski use. I also wrote a letter to Kawasaki,a corporate sponsor, telling them of the situation and asking that they encourage the operator to follow San Juan County laws. They have since dropped their sponsorship.
I’m perplexed as to why this operator continues to knowingly violate County Ordinance in their operations. I can only assume that the penalties defined in 10.28.140 are not sufficient to deter them. A $50 fine when someone is paying almost $10,000 is nothing. Perhaps impoundment would be the deterrent.
In addition to violating Jet Ski restrictions, you can see from their videos on YouTube that these groups harass marine life by ignoring distance keeping requirements from protected species. I feel that most residents and visitors to the San Juans would agree that this type of operation is both undesirable and illegal.
I’m not familiar with the workings of local government to understand who might be able to help with upholding the law. I hope that you may be able to help by making this information more widely known so that others with that ability may help to protect San Juan waters.