Charter of the Liveaboard Association of Puget Sound

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.

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.