The buoys are coming to Lake Union

After some controversy, the buoys are finally coming to Lake Union. Five temporary buoys (down from eight) will be installed just before Memorial Day and removed after Labor Day. As Kristen M. Clark of Crosscut reports today:

“[T]he city of Seattle will install in Lake Union a straight line of five buoys equipped with flashing warning lights that will alert boaters, kayakers and other watercraft of seaplanes’ impending takeoffs and landings, the Seattle Office of Planning & Community Development (OCPD) told Crosscut.

“It’ll be a de facto airstrip in the lake — but not in the traditional sense with a cordoned-off physical lane exclusive only to aircraft. Boaters and other lake users will still be able to access the waters around the buoys; the idea is now they’ll have forewarning not to be in the area at the wrong time. (Aviators who will make use of the warning buoys are referring to it as a “seaplane advisory area,” while a government permit application formally called it a “takeoff/landing area.”)

“Such a water runway has been several years in the making with the goal of improving safety on Lake Union for the increasingly congested mix of sailboats, powerboats, yachts, planes, kayakers and paddle-boarders, among others.

“’This warning system is intended to support public safety on the water but does not change any current regulations about right of way for boaters or airplanes,’ OCPD spokesman Jason Kelly said in a statement.”

The buoys are arriving just in time for expanded seaplane service on the lake. Last Thursday Kenmore Air and Harbour Air launched their synergistic flights between Vancouver B.C. and Seattle. GeekWire explains, “Affectionately dubbed the ‘nerd bird,’ it’s hoped the route will attract tech workers and researchers shuttling to offices and institutions in both cities.”

The new route was hailed by Governor Jay Inslee and other dignitaries in attendance Thursday. And while it’s certainly the quickest way to get across the border, not to mention the most beautiful and spectacular, it’s not the cheapest ($570 round trip) or greenest way as commenters on the GeekWire article point out.

But seaplanes have a cherished history on Lake Union “…beginning with the famous Boeing name,” notes Crosscut. “One hundred and two years ago this June, Bill Boeing took to the skies in his first flight using a seaplane that taxied into takeoff from Seattle’s Lake Union.”

Like Boeing over a hundred years ago, both the temporary buoys and the new seaplane service are testing the Lake Union waters.