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Time (finally) to hit the beach

  • Written by Lisa Allen

But don’t forget your life jacket – police will be watching

DUVALL–The Snoqualmie River is still running pretty high, fast and cold.

But that didn’t keep locals from heading to the river beach last week to enjoy the beginning of real summer weather. Most stayed on the warm sand though, rather than in the water, probably due to the chill factor.

Other than that, the scene appeared pretty much as it always has for early July (no life jackets in sight except for one on a child), making one wonder if long-engrained behavior can be changed as easily as passing a law, such as the ordinance just recently passed by the King County Council requiring all swimmers, boaters and floaters on the county’s major rivers to wear "personal flotation devices."

And it remains to be seen whether all those active young people will be willing to give up the pleasures of frolicking and swimming in the rivers without the constraints of a life jacket.

It’s all about safety, said King County Council members who were concerned about the dangers resulting from the extra-high water this year due to heavy snow melt.

According to the King County Executive’s Office, the measure, which took effect July 1st, also calls for a public education campaign to let people know of the new requirement by posting signs at access points to major rivers (such as the Duvall beach but as of last week there still were no signs), and to promote life vest use in partnership with regional organizations focused on drowning prevention, such as Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Statewide Drowning Prevention Network.

Health and safety officials will evaluate the program as the summer progresses.

The new law covers only major King County rivers and, although there was no officer on the Duvall beach on that hot day last week, local police are saying the area will be patrolled and violaters warned or ticketed.

The King County Sheriff will enforce the wearing of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device, or PFD, in the unincorporated portions of the Snoqualmie, Tolt, Cedar, Green, White, Raging and Skykomish Rivers that run outside of cities.

Duvall police Commander Carey Hert said last week if officers see a violation they will first issue a warning. A second offense can result in a ticket which can cost up to $86.

"No one has been ticketed yet," he said.

Hert said the department published the information about the new law in the Duvall News which goes out monthly in the city’s utility bills.

The article explained that the life jacket requirement applies to anyone using a buoyant device, including an air mattress or inner tube, and to anyone swimming or wading more than five feet from shore or in water more than four feet deep.

The article also notes that even strong swimmers can find themselves in a life-threatening situation in seconds and warns that rivers often have debris clogs (that can catch an unwary swimmer).

The regulation is in effect through October 31, 2011.

But not all beach-goers are aware of the new ordinance.

Duvall resident Andrea Nelson wasn’t. She was enjoying the beach that day with her five kids, ages 4 to 16, most just playing in the sand or sun bathing.

"I didn’t know about the law," she said. "There should be signs. If they (police) get serious (about passing out tickets) we will probably find another beach or go to a pool."

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