Mooring buoys 101 on Lake Windermere

Common issue brought to Lake Windermere Ambassadors was growing number of mooring buoys on the lake

Watershed Wanderings

by Thea Rodgers

Lake Windermere Ambassadors

A common issue brought to the Lake Windermere Ambassadors this summer was about the growing number of mooring buoys on the lake. Several long-time residents voiced concerns about improperly installed moorings, and many are worried this issue will continue to grow in the absence of adequate education. To help address this, we want to share some tips and information about current mooring buoy regulations, so that everyone can be on the same page about them.

A mooring buoy is a type of buoy used to anchor a boat offshore. It is typically installed close to the shoreline as an alternative to using a dock or pier. Mooring buoys are practical methods of boat storage for motorized and non-motorized vessels alike.

A proper mooring is designed to remain in one place, securely attached to the lakebed by a heavy anchor. This minimizes damage to the lakebed by preventing scouring and sediment disturbance. It also ensures the boat and buoy stay within the same designated zoning area throughout the season.

A mooring anchor must be of adequate weight to prevent the boat from dragging it along the lake bottom during high winds or a storm event. A rubber tire filled with concrete, for example, is usually not heavy enough to restrain a moving boat (since concrete is lighter under water), and may shift beneath the surface. When a mooring shifts around, this poses problems for other boaters because it alters the arrangement of boats within a mooring field. This can cause boats to rub against each other, potentially damaging them, or cause boats to shift into areas of sensitive habitat or unsafe moorage.

Local mooring regulations

Mooring buoys are regulated through the Private Buoy Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, and enforced by Transport Canada. These regulations specify the size, colour, and information that must be listed on a private mooring buoy:

• Must be a minimum width of 15.25 cm (6”) and minimum height of 30.5 cm (12”) above the water surface;

• Must display, on two opposite sides, large capital letters “PRIV” to indicate it is privately owned;

• Must conspicuously display the current name, address and telephone number of the owner of the buoy, in a permanent and legible manner;

• Must have a suitable anchor, constructed so as to remain in position.

Any mooring buoys that do not comply with these regulations, or that have been out of use for two consecutive years, can be removed from any Canadian waters by Transport Canada.

Both the District of Invermere and Regional District of East Kootenay also have zoning bylaws that include surface water zones. These zoning bylaws outline where, and how many, mooring buoys are permitted around the lake.

In addition, the Lake Windermere Management Plan suggests that all mooring buoys should be placed 12 to 30 metres from the natural high water mark, and a minimum of 12 metres (or 39 feet) from any other mooring buoy. This is to help prevent other boats from being damaged in windy conditions, and to allow larger, harder-to-navigate vessels (such as sailboats) the ability to sail out of the mooring field without hazard.

Why is it important to comply with the regulations?

In the event of an accident involving a private buoy, the owner of that buoy may be held liable and fined for any damages resulting from negligent operation or maintenance.

Mooring buoy owners are advised to take all necessary precautions to ensure their buoys conform to federal standards, and are operated and maintained in the proper manner.

Since Lake Windermere is considered a “non-Schedule navigable waterway”, private moorings must never impede boat navigation. Additionally, if a private buoy doesn’t meet the size/identification regulations listed above, it could be flagged for removal by Transport Canada.

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors do encourage all mooring buoy owners to adopt the regulations listed in this article for next spring, in order to help reduce the potential for conflict between user groups and to help increase safety for you and for other boaters.

For information about specific zoning regulations, please view the RDEK’s “Upper Columbia Valley Zoning Bylaw No. 900, 1992” for Lake Windermere, or the District of Invermere’s “Zoning Amendment Bylaw No.1460, 2012”.

For more information about the bylaws and regulations mentioned in this article, please visit our website at, or contact

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