I must admit that early on I wasn't keen to the idea of the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) proposing a fee to non-motorized boaters to help pay for facilities and educational materials. Few of us like fees of any sort, and most of us don’t like government intruding in our activities. Some of us even question the need for aquatic invasive species permits (AISP). I must admit that I was incensed to discover that paddlers paid more for their AISP than motorized boaters paid. So I was initially turned off by talk about having to pay another fee.
I attended two meetings—one in Portland and the other in Salem—OSMB held with non-motorized boaters to discuss issues of access to the water, safety, education, and that dirty word, fees. Many in the audience weren’t in favor of fees; I was one of them at first, but my attitude toward the fee is beginning to change, albeit slowly and with some caveats.
As discussions went on during the meetings, I could see a return on investment from a fee paddlers would pay. I am particularly interested in seeing a dock built at Beaver Creek on the Oregon coast and hopeful that proceeds from those fees will be used to construct the dock. Probably what also softened my heart toward the fee is the fact that OSMB sent me a book free of charge that dealt with paddling with the disabled. This book I’m sure wasn’t free, neither is ridding waterways of navigational hazards like downed trees in the Tualatin River, and building docks, boat ramps, and parking spaces specifically for paddlers.
I also read in a recent letter that OSMB director Scott Brewen sent to Megi Morishita in response to questions she had regarding the talk of a fee at the listening sessions OSMB conducted around the state. He laid out some convincing arguments justifying the fee.
I do believe it unfair that motorized boaters have had to cover all costs of facilities and educational materials that both motorized and non-motorized boaters enjoy. What struck me in the letter from Scott was the fact that money motorized boaters pay was used to defend OSMB’s decision to make Waldo Lake off limits to motorized boats. In other words, motorized boaters were funding a decision to make a lake off limits to their use. Any paddler who enjoys paddling Waldo Lake can appreciate OSMB’s decision to make the lake off limits to powerboats.
I believe a fee is reasonable if the fee itself is reasonable—no more than $20 every two years—and that includes the fee for the AISP. I believe there also needs to be accountability on where the money goes. Am I entirely sold on the idea of a fee? That depends on the outcome, but I am warming to the idea and not willing to blatantly dismiss it.