The first limits on personal watercraft came in 1996, when Washington state’s San Juan County moved to ban their use in and around the San Juan Islands. The ban was challenged by the watercraft industry, who feared such bans could become contagious. The ban was overruled by a lower court in the fall of1996, but county officials, encouraged by jet-ski critics nationwide, took the issue to the Washington Supreme Court. The local ban was upheld in July 1998 in a 7-2 decision (see decision John Weden II et al. vs. San Juan County et al)
Thecourt ruled that when a PWC rider obtains a boat registration or buys a license it is nothing more than a precondition to legally operating a PWC. The court made it clear that registration does not confer an unconditional right of access. "It’s a landmark decision for local control and the recognition that personal watercraft are different in character and use and need to be regulated," said San Juan County Commissioner Rhea Miller.
- Full Text of San Juan County Code Title 10, Chapter 10.28: Watercraft Regulations
- San Juan County, Washington Home Page
- San Juan County Planning Department’s Jet Skis (Personal Watercraft) Documents
- Full Text of San Juan County Ordinance No. 7 – 1998 – Restricting Use of Personal Watercraft within the Exterior Boundaries of San Juan County and Establishing Fines and Penalties
- The Noise Pollution Clearinghouse is the primary on-line resource for noise pollution information.
- The BlueWater Network’s Jet Ski Campaign has extensive materials, including advice on drafting local ordinances.