Seeking Input on Oregon's Proposed Non-Motorized Boating Program

posted December 4, 2016
by Thomas O'Keefe

article photo 3
For the past five years the Oregon State Marine Board has engaged with the non-motorized boating community to learn how the Marine Board can better meet the needs of the community. The initiative came out of the Marine Board's 2011-2016 Strategic Plan, which was released in 2010. Through this initiative, the Marine Board convened the Non-Motorized Boating Advisory Committee.
In 2015, the Marine Board issued a Non-Motorized Boating Program 2011-2015 Strategic Plan Final Report that addressed the following five goals:
1) Actively integrate non-motorized boater needs and participation into agency operations
2) Increase outreach to, and communication with, all boater user groups
3) Explore equitable and appropriate fees for non-motorized boaters
4) Balance the needs of motorized and non-motorized boaters
5) Address facility issues to accommodate the needs of all boaters.
The Strategic Plan notes the explosive growth of non-motorized boating. Activities that once had negligible impact on waterways and boating services have now surpassed motorized boating for person-days on the water, and the growth continues to be exponential. The Marine Board has been working to better serve these boaters, and to determine how to fund current Marine Board work and future work that supports these activities. Outreach through a series of public meetings across the state, an online survey, and meetings of the Non-Motorized Boating Advisory Committee resulted in a unanimous recommendation of the Committee to recommend to the Board a Non-Motorized Boating Program that includes elements to address access, safety, education and funding. As an outcome of this process the Marine Board is proposing legislation for the 2017 legislative session that includes a new fee for paddlesports.
In the past, American Whitewater has actively opposed efforts by the Marine Board to charge user fees for paddlesports. This new proposal however was developed with input from the paddlesports community including some of our members who have served on the committee. The legislative proposal responds to several of the past criticisms we have raised by establishing a dedicated fund for non-motorized boating, clearly identifying the agency responsible for implementing the program with dedicated staff to serve non-motorized boating, up-front development of a strategic plan with robust public input, and a significant investment in developing a realistic budget estimate.
American Whitewater has not taken a formal position on the legislation and we encourage feedback in two ways. We are conducting a survey of our members and are particularly interested in perspectives from those who live in Oregon and those who visit the state for paddlesports.
Additionally, if you are an Oregon resident you can reach out directly to your state legislative representatives. You can do this now or wait until legislation is introduced.
Background and Key Provisions of Draft Legislation
The Non-Motorized Boating Advisory Committee has released draft legislation that we expect will be introduced in the 2017 legislative session. We are seeking input from our members on this legislation which includes the following key elements:
1) A non-motorized boat would be defined as a boat that is not propelled by machinery, but would not include single inner tubes, pool toys, surfboards, or body boards (Section 1.8 and 1.9).
2) A voluntary non-motorized boating education program would be established that includes a course of instruction and examination for non-motorized boat operators (Section 4.2). The Marine Board may issue grants to non-profit organizations in providing education about non-motorized boat use (Section 4.3.a) or approve the use of commercially provided safety courses that meet standards established by the Marine Board (Section 4.3.b).
3) A new grant program would be established to support public access to waterways for non-motorized boating for the purchase of land, leases, or easements; construction, renovation, expansion, or development of public boating facilities for non-motorized boating use; construction, renovation, expansion, or development of public play parks for non-motorized boating use; and modifying or upgrading existing public boating facilities to accommodate or incorporate non-motorized boat use (Section 6.2.a). The grant program would also support technical services to support these activities as well as operations and maintenance (Section 6.2.b and 6.2.c). This program would be initially funded at $1.1 million per biennium (two-year budget cycle) with anticipated growth to $1.6 million and be distributed between construction, facility maintenance, and law enforcement with more investment in construction in the early years.
4) A new non-motorized boating permit would be required to boat on Oregon waterways for any individual 14 or older operating a non-motorized boat (section 7). A key exception would be for a designated wild and scenic river for which a separate fee system is in place—e.g. Rogue, Deschutes, John Day (Section 7.2.c). The fee would be $4 for a one-week permit, $12 for an annual permit, or $20 for a biennial permit and a separate fee structure for boat livery operators (Section 9). Agents selling the permits would be authorized to charge an additional $2 service fee (Section 8.4). The Marine Board would also authorized to combine the boating permit with the aquatic invasive species permit (Section 8.7) that is currently $5 per boat for non-motorized boats 10 feet and longer.
5) Fees from the boating permit would be placed in a new dedicated account known as the Non-Motorized Boating Program Fund (Section 9.2). Advertising proceeds could also be deposited in this account (Section 12), along with direction appropriations from the legislature (Section 13.2.a.C), or gifts, grants, or contributions from public or private sources (Section 13.2.b). Total anticipated budget for the program would be $1.67 million in the first biennium and growing to $2.30 million within the third biennium from enactment. In addition to the grant program described above, $269,094 with anticipated increase to $400,979 would fund 2.5 full time equivalent staff to include a full-time coordinator to work on education, partnerships, grants, etc.; 1/2 time assistant to answer phones, help with permits, etc.; and a full time person in facilities to work on mitigating access with partners (attend meetings, help with design, etc.) Of the remaining budget, $205,479 with anticipated increase to $230,529 would go to educational materials, signs, educational grants and outreach; and $37,500 with anticipated increase to $$52,250 would go to capital expenditures.
6) All individuals operating a non-motorized craft (an object, other than a boat, that is capable of supporting a person on the water such as an inner tube, air mattress, pool toy, surfboard, or body board) in a river or stream would be required to wear a personal floatation device of a type prescribed by the Marine Board (Section 11).
Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012

Associated Projects

  • Oregon Navigability
    AW works to keep the rivers of Oregon open and accessible to the boating public.