Chris Grieve, King County Council’s Poster Boy?

What makes the world turn? Maybe it’s better to ask what makes your guts turn?

Seattle makes the national news.. again… I’ve even had some personal emails from folks back East laughing.. laughing at who you say??  Washington State King County Council Members:

Larry Phillips
Joe McDermott
Bob Ferguson
Julia Patterson
Larry Gossett

The Story follows, but I think there’s another story surrounding Chris Grieve himself. read on..

The Snoqualmie River can be an unruly neighbor. But for a month or two, when it’s needed the most, it calms down so much that parts of it become an oasis.

“It’s like our town swimming hole,” says Piper Muoio, 47, who lives in the Wood River subdivision in North Bend.

On hot August days, it’s not unusual to find 50 people cooling in the water on a beach area near her home, Muoio says.

“People come down to dip their feet, swim or swing out on a rope into the water,” she says. “I like to float on an air mattress. You can go and just sit in the middle of the river. The water’s barely moving there.”

Except now, due to the wisdom of the Metropolitan King County Council, all of them — the foot-dippers, the swimmers, the rope-swingers, the floaters, the in-the-middle-sitters — must, by law, wear life jackets.

It’s an $86 fine if you don’t. That now applies to all boaters on all the major King County rivers, including inner tubers and Muoio on her air mattress. But more strangely, it’s also the law for anyone, no matter how old, who swims or wades more than five feet from shore (except adult fishermen, who got exempted.)

“How did wading get wrapped in there?” Muoio wondered.

Seriously, Metropolitan King County Council? If I’m out on a hike and I want to wade around in a river to cool off, I better have packed a life vest?

Now it’s true these rivers can be like crazed beasts in the spring and early summer. That’s when the white water rafters love them most. But right now I probably wouldn’t try to swim in one even wearing a life jacket.

But in August or September, the trickiest thing about floating some of these rivers is that you run aground so often.

In North Bend, the middle fork of the Snoqualmie quiets so much in very late summer that parts of it can be easily walked across, Muoio says.

“I don’t think anyone would object much if they required life jackets for boating,” she said. “But I can’t imagine we’re all going to be wearing them during our summer swims.”

Is swimming with a life jacket even fun? Sorry, that question is obviously out of bounds.

Currently the law is only that vests are required for kids under age 12 who are in boats less than 19 feet long. Some states do mandate life jackets for adult boaters in dangerous waters, such as Class III rapids or above.

But it’s apparently a new one in this state to make life vests mandatory for adult swimmers. The part about waders is even more off the charts.

The well-meaning idea is that there’s huge snow melt this year, so the rivers are expected to be full and dangerous for longer.

“I personally feel that it is insane for anyone to be on moving water in Washington without a life vest,” said James Grieve, of Northwest Fly Fishing Adventures, writing in support of the new law.

OK, but again — even if we’re wading? That’s kind of like making air bags mandatory for pedestrians.

I guess laws like this are, in the end, not that big of a deal. Last I checked, the King County Sheriffs Office was so understaffed they were saying they can’t respond to every burglary. It would be curious if they suddenly find the manpower to crack down on inner tubers.

So really it’s just a public-service message. Wear your life vest, eat your broccoli, etc.

Why I am irked by it anyway? Something about being treated like a child.

Said a county health officer, when the life-vest law was introduced: “The best drowning prevention on rivers is to stay out.”

Can’t argue with that. The best dying prevention would be to never leave your home at all. Only hitch is that at some point there’s no life left in the living.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or



Back to and Chris Grieve. Notice the picture on his home page, he’s standing in the middle of moving water with no life vest on, I sure hope he’ll pull that picture and get the blaze orange vest on and set a good example for the rest of us.

One thing I’ve noticed about Sportsmen, they normally encourage personal responsibility, and all the ones I have any respect for understand that additional laws can very easily interfere with another person’s freedom and pursuit, furthermore they generally have the wisdom to understand that there are many people who believe you have no business hunting or fishing!  I’m sure there’s countless vegeterians in Seattle that think catch and release is stupid too.. you’re in the river, hooking fish and sometimes injuring them for what? Just to let them go? How insane they’ll say.. No doubt they could use Chris for the Poster Boy a second time…. a Dumb Ass in the River bothering the fish! There should be a law against it they’ll say.

But there’s more… Washington State Law makes it a ‘Cake Walk’ for an attorney to seek damages from a Government Entity and to be awarded them. The first person who gets his life vest hung up on a log, branch or other impediment in a King County River is going to create a gold mine for some attorney.  Of course it won’t be the Dumb Asses on the King County Council that will pay the awards.. it will be the Citizens of King County, and the Jury is asked to decide if the County is 5% or more responsible for the death or injury. Five percent! What Jury wouldn’t find that?

As I close, I think of all the fun I had as a kid, diving from 20 or 30 feet into a big deep hole in the Green River.. It sure would be fun to force the council members to make that dive with a big ole orange life vest on.

I wonder if James realizes how many people would approve of banning his sport? We can learn quite a bit from the sentiments of comments on this article, and here’s one Grieve should think about.

Seattle Majority might conclude: “If we ban this activity all together, no one will lose their life doing it.”  Fifteen to Zero!



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7 Responses to Chris Grieve, King County Council’s Poster Boy?

  1. Quinn says:


    That’s the problem with government. It attracts people who think they know best, and who are motivated to exert control over others. It’s what they do. Sort of like the scorpion and the frog.

    Unless they are effectively resisted, regulators will chip away at our freedoms until they control everything. The example you cite indicates the lengths to which their paternalistic “we know best” attitude goes.

    • George B. says:

      Q, I think you are ‘right on the mark’.
      It really is sad that these folks don’t seem to have the ability to think thru the long term effects of this law. You WILL see a court case in King County when the first person gets his life vest hung up on something, and the King County Council has set up all King County Citizens to pay the awards the Jury WILL rule in favor of.
      These Councilmen are exactly what the majority of Seattle want, the average person in Seattle likely believes it’s wrong to be even near a river in the first place. It’s the tail that wags the dog.
      My larger disappointment is in poster boy JAMES ‘CHRIS’ GRIEVE and what appears to be his total disconnect with reality. Certainly, we’d all expect him to squeal like a pig when anyone in Government attempts to make illegal any of the activities he loves. To actively and knowingly help make illegal another Man’s Sport is a Sin according to the Sportsman’s Handbook of Common Sense and Ethical Behavior.

  2. George B. says:

    As I ponder this article in the Seattle Times, I think it’s very educational to read the comments. One comment I thought interesting is about James’ sport of catch and release fishing, and all the thumbs up the idea of banning his ‘insane’ sport received.
    James ‘Chris’… better enjoy your insane sport while you can……

  3. James Grieve says:

    Thanks for the comments on this issue guys. Actually, I am wearing an inflatable life vest in the picture on my home page. It is under my coat. You can see the reflective bar that is chest level. I wear it most of the time. I will admit that it should be on top of my coat to be most effective, but wearing it, is better than not. BTW…most inflatable vests are not bright orange like the bulky ones you had to wear as a kid. However, they must be worn to be considered legal.

    Please see the River Safety page on my web site for the background on how I became involved with this issue over two years ago:

    The current law is temporaty and will most likely be revised next year after a lot of public comment. Hopefully the requirement that swimmers and waders wear a life vest will be removed from the law. However, floating the river without a life vest is flat out dangerous.

    • George B. says:

      Chris, I think it’s fairly important that you wear the big ole orange life vest, I’m not liking the idea of some water cop spending a bunch of our tax dollars chasing after you and your party to make sure you’re legal. I think cops should be able to glass you from a distance and know you’re legal, exactly like Hunters who must wear blaze orange. I’m sure there will be professional people who would conclude that it is ‘insane’ to wear an inflatible vest under your jacket as well.

      I’m not happy a bunch of Dumb Asses have made one of my favorite past times illegal, and perhaps more dangerous under certain conditions. As I mentioned, there are plenty of people who think catch and release fishing is a really dumb idea, and if it was up for a vote, it may become illegal……enjoy it while you can…

      • Quinnn says:


        I agree that wearing a PFD inside one’s clothing is a bad idea. I don’t have time to look up the reg at the moment, but I fully expect that the controlling USCG regulation states that the PFD must be worn outside all clothing. That reg. might not be under USCG jurisdiction on non-navigable inland waterways, however, so it is up to whoever is doing the enforcement to decide whose regs they want to follow.

        PFDs are designed to be worn on the outside of clothing. Period. The reasons are varied, but include the fact that if a PFD is worn under outer garments it has a tendency to restrict the range of motion of the wearer’s upper extremities, hampering their ability to assist in their own rescue, or even to self-rescue, say by swimming to shore. Second, outer clothing might prevent an inflatable PFD, such as are popular with freshwater fisherfolk from fully inflating and achieving the designed level of floatation.

        And, as you alluded, I would fully expect that anyone having enforcement responsibility would be rather irritated at apprehending someone, only to find that they were concealing their PFD beneath a jacket.

        • George B. says:

          Quinn, I trust the average Sportsman to educate himself and take the proper precautions. The knee Jerk reaction to make a law againt an activity because somebody got hurt almost always turns out badly and helps divert public funds and resources from elsewhere.

          I do fear that the overwhelming Liberal population of Seattle will use Chris and his improper use of a life vest as an example of why we need laws that also include step by step procedures as to how the required equipment will be used and exactly what that equipment will be. Most in Seattle realize that fish hooks are sharp and >could< puncture the bladder in a life vest. Perhaps Chris will agree that the County Council will make the best decision for him and his fellow Fishermen?

          As I mentioned before, I think the majority in Seattle are quite capable of supporting laws that restrict irrational activities in rivers, who can argue the fact that it would lead to an even higher degree of safety in our rivers? Isn't that the real Issue, Safety?

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