Boaters of all types converged in Salem, Oregon, March 1 for a public hearing on two Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) measures introduced in the Oregon Legislature that would impact non-motorized boaters. Many paddlers came to speak out against HB 2320 that would impose a biennium fee of $30—$20 for a boat fee and $10 for the Aquatic Invasive Species Permit (AISP). This fee would be levied on all non-motorized boats, including stand-up paddleboards, regardless of size. It should also be noted that operators of non-motorized boats under 10 feet would be required to carry an AISP, which currently isn’t required for 2017. The bill if passed would take effect January 1, 2018.
Like the current AISP, the permit would go with the paddler, not the boat. So if you own more than one boat but only paddle one at a time, you would only need one permit. However, if you have family or friends who would be using one of your other boats at the same time, then you would need multiple permits. Depending on how many boats you have and how many you use at one time, the permits could get expensive. Liveries would get a reduced rate on the fees they would have to pay.
I participated as a member of a focus group three years ago that studied the feasibility of such a fee. It was then that OSMB asked us what we like them to focus on with regards to paddlers and if a fee was implemented what it should be used to fund.
There was much discussion during those meetings, both in Portland and Salem, much of it focused on some key issues: adequate parking, restroom facilities, sandy or grassy beaches to launch from, and river hazard signage. While fees weren’t a popular topic at the focus group in Portland, some, including myself, were open to the idea if the fees were reasonable.
I'm not totally opposed to a fee, though I do feel the fee as it is currently being put forth in HB 2320 is a little high. I can see the argument from both sides of the fence having been a paddler for over 50 years and also having owned a ski boat. Many of us do use public boat launches from time to time, and we should help pay for the maintenance.
If you've accompanied me on one of my many Beaver Creek or Upper Klamath Canoe Trail tours, we've used public boat ramps that as of now are totally funded by powerboat operators.
In the case of Beaver Creek, it's safe to say that ramp is utilized more by non-motorized boaters than motorized boaters. There is also inadequate parking at the Beaver Creek boat ramp. I have also been pushing for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) to install a boat dock either at the boat ramp or on the other side of Hwy 101 at Brian Booth State Park. To do that, OPRD relies on funds, some of which would come from OSMB and the fees paddlers would pay.
Anyone who has been to the Wocus Bay boat ramp in Rocky Point, Oregon, knows how crowded that parking lot can get in the summer. There have been times when some participants on my Upper Klamath Canoe Trail tours have had to park next door at Rocky Point Resort and pay the $6 parking fee. Money from paddlers could help expand parking and reduce resentment from powerboat operators who use that ramp and parking lot.
Now the state could start charging non-motorized boaters a parking fee, and that might be the solution. However, I suspect that there are some paddlers who would still complain, and powerboat operators who have to pay the same fee and a boat registration fee would argue that they’re still shouldering much of the cost. If paddlers are only required to pay a launch fee, that still creates resentment between powerboat operators and paddlers.
The problem I have with paying a fee at the boat ramp is that those fees can vary because many boat launches are operated and maintained by the county. So how much cash do you bring? In addition, if you're like me, you probably carry very little cash on hand now that we use debit cards, and many of the permit stations don’t accept debit or credit cards.
Another drawback of paying at the launch is that money usually goes toward the upkeep of that launch. During the focus group meetings, paddlers expressed a desire that OSMB use those fees to support enforcement of boating rules and provide signage that shows navigation hazards and camping locations.
Paddlers are great people. We care about nature and the environment, and we make concerted efforts to clean up trash in our waterways. We should also care about paying our fair share to use the boating facilities the state and counties provide.
Now I can hear whitewater paddlers arguing that they don't use any boating facilities, and that might be true much of the time. However, I suspect many whitewater paddlers have either launched or taken out from state or county parks a time or two. I also suspect that many paddlers have used trails to get down to the water. Someone has to maintain those trails and the vehicle pull-outs at those trailheads.
So what is your solution? I would like to hear what you think about the proposed non-motorized fee. Do you think the fee is a good or bad idea? If you’re agreeable to a fee, what amount do you think paddlers should pay? And how would you like to see OSMB use that fee? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will post your comments in a follow-up blog article.