Posted By: Keri Malanchuk

Every summer we receive a lot of questions regarding mooring buoys. We have put together some information so you can navigate the choppy waters of regulations and restrictions.

Where can I place my buoy?

The first thing many people want to know is where they can place a buoy on the lake. 

The most important and necessary restriction on buoy placement is making sure they don’t interfere with boat navigation or mislead boaters. In the case of an accident involving an interfering buoy, the private owner may be found liable and will have to pay for damages. This is set out by the Navigational Protection Act and is enforced by Transport Canada.

As to where on the lake buoys can be placed, this is determined by the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK), and the District of Invermere (DOI) zoning bylaws. These zones include residential (private), group (community), institutional (public access), and commercial. They all come with specific permitted uses and regulations. 

Regulations of mooring buoys for RDEK zones include:

-Residential zones (LW-1): Maximum of 2 mooring buoys per property

-Group zones (LW-2): No regulations

-Group zone Windermere (LW-2(A)): Maximum of 45 boats moored in the zone

-Institutional zones (LW-3): No overnight mooring

-Commercial (LW-4): No regulations

See the most recent zoning maps for the North, Middle, and South end of the Lake

Regulations of mooring buoys for DOI zones include:

-Residential zones (W-1): Maximum of 1 mooring buoys per property

-Group zones (W-2): No regulations

-Institutional zones (W-3): No overnight mooring

-Commercial (W-4): No regulations

See the zoning map for the Invermere District of the lake

Once you have found an appropriate zone to place your buoy, you will need to determine where within the zone is the best place. The Lake Windermere Management plan states that mooring buoys should be placed 12 to 30 meters away from the high watermark, as well as at least 12 meters away from any other mooring buoy.

What kind of buoy can I moor to?

Most of the existing mooring buoys on the lake belong to private residents or community associations. Never moor a boat to a navigational buoy such as speed limit or no-wake zone.

If you are looking to place your own buoy in the water, be aware there are strict regulations set out by the Canadian Shipping Act under Private Buoys.

These include:

-The part of the buoy that shows above the surface of the water must be at least 15.25 cm wide and at least 30.5 cm high to remain visible to boaters.

-Must display the word “PRIV” in large capital letters on both sides of the buoy in contrasting colour to that of the buoy.

White when the buoy in green, red or black

Black when the buoy is white or yellow

-Must display buoy owner’s current name address and telephone number in a permanent and legible manner.

-Must be constructed so that the buoy is properly anchored and stays in position

One last important thing to consider is the colours and symbols of the buoy. Just like roadways, water navigation follows a strict colour and shape symbol code. The proper style of a buoy for mooring is coloured white and orange with the orange colour covering the top one-third of the buoy above the waterline. If it has a light it must be yellow and must conform to light guidelines in the Canadian Aids to Navigation System. The private buoy must not confuse boaters by displaying improper colours and shapes that are designated in the Canadian Buoyage System.

 

If these conditions are not met, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure can remove any buoy or can request additional modifications. As well, under the Canada Shipping Act, persons failing to follow the legislated guidelines are liable on summary conviction to fines of up to $200.

Can I make my own buoy?

There are homemade buoys that will meet these requirements. A homemade buoy must be durable to withstand weather and water conditions, very visible, and can absorb boat impacts. Rigid plastic foam and rigid moulded plastic buoys work well because they are lightweight and can withstand impacts. Do not use steel drums, barrels, propane cylinders, bleach bottles or jugs as buoys. Steel buoys withstand weather conditions but can cause extensive damage if hit by a boat.

A mooring anchor must be heavy enough to hold the boat securely in place and withstand movement in high winds. If you want to weight down the boat with concrete be aware that dried concrete loses about 42% of its weight when fully submerged. Other anchors such as mushroom anchor, screw anchors and pyramid anchors work by embedding itself into the bottom with the right substrate conditions.

When attaching a chain follow guidelines from the size and weight of the buoy. Two chains, a lighter chain on top and heavier chain on the bottom are recommended. Ensure the chain is not excessively long because it can rub against the bottom of the lake and have negative effects on aquatic life living in the sea bed.

You must ensure the buoy is constructed and maintained well. In the event of an accident, private owners may be found liable for any damages resulting from the negligent operation.

Other Resources:

BC Government Mooring Buoy FAQ’s

Transport Canada: Owners Guide to Private Buoys

Transport Canada: Navigational Protection Program Info 

Canadian Coast Guard: Floating Aids to Navigation (Buoy) Info

Fisheries and Oceans: The Canadian Aids to Navigation System