Public Hearing for Proposed Non-Motorized Boating Program in Oregon
This week the Oregon House Transportation Policy Committee has schedueld a hearing for the bill to establish a Non-Motorized Boating Program as proposed by the Oregon State Marine Board (House Bill 2320). Through a survey we conducted last year we have solicited feedback on the legislation to implement this program. The most controversial element of the proposal is a requirement that any person 14 years of age or older shall carry a non-motorized boating permit ($12 annually) while operating a non-motorized boat in Oregon. Many of our members were strongly opposed to this proposal. Others were more supportive of the concept but had concerns with the ability of the Oregon State Marine Board to effectively represent the interests of the paddling community and invest the revenue generated in on-the-ground benefits. Given the breadth of perspectives, we encourage our members living in Oregon to comment directly to your state representatives.
Make Your Voice Heard
This is important. Many paddlers have shared their thoughts with American Whitewater. We will do our best to summarize what we heard in providing our own written testimony but it's critical that legislators hear directly from their constituents. You can do this in one of 3 ways.
1) Attend the hearing (hearing agenda). You can attend this week's hearing of the Transportation Policy Committee on 3/1 at 8am in Hearing Room D at the Oregon State Capitol and testify in person. The Oregon legislature has a web page on How to Testify that provides excellent guidance on how to prepare.
2) You can submit written testimony to the Transportation Policy Committee (committee overview). If you have time and capacity to prepare written testimony, this is an alternative means of sharing your views before the committee. To ensure members have time to review your input prior to the hearing, you should strive to submit testimony by noon on the day before the hearing. Follow the directions on How to Testify and then submit your written testimony as a PDF directly to the commitee by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask that your letter be placed in the hearing record and shared with committee members. Note that in doing so your comments will become part of the public record.
3) Contact Your Legislator. We have made a template available that will automatically pull up your representatives based on your address and provide some text to help get you started with some appropriate context. You need to craft the rest of the message.
Background and Key Provisions of Draft Legislation
These are the key elements of the bill:
1) A non-motorized boat would be defined as a boat that is not propelled by machinery, but would not include objects other than a boat such as single inner tubes, air mattresses, 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).
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 has proposed that the legislature establish the Non-Motorized Boating Program supported by a requirement to purchase a $12 (annual fee) Non-Motorized boating Permit that must be carried while operating a non-motorized boat
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. In a survey of our membership however, 35% of indivdiuals were strongly opposed to the establishment of a fee-based Non-Motorized Boating Program with only 7% strongly supporting. A major concern, even among those who were supportive of a user fee, was the lack of confidence in the ability of the Marine Board to represent paddlesports: 0% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement that "the Marine Board effectively represents paddlesports" while 26% strongly disagreed, and 0% of respondents strongly agreeed with the statement that "the Marine Board understands the needs of the paddlesports community," while 29% strongly disagreed.
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