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  • Radford Bean

Senate Bill 47 Aims to Create Waterway Access Fund (Updated)

The Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 47 into the Oregon Legislature on January 2019. The summary of the bill states that the measure would require persons operating non-motorized boats to have waterway access permits. It would eliminate the requirement that non-motorized boat owners carry an aquatic invasive species permit (AISP).

Already the negative comments, pushback, and misleading comments from paddlers have started showing up on Facebook regarding the bill. Subsequently, I thought that I would break down each new section of the bill to put to rest any misinterpretations and falsehoods about the bill. Let me first state that I am not an employee of OSMB, nor do I represent that agency. I do work for the state of Oregon, however, and one of my roles is dissecting legislation. That disclaimer out of the way, I simply wish to explain the new sections to clear up any misconceptions of SB 47.

So, let us look at what each new section in SB 47 means to paddlers. First, SB 47 addresses non-motorized boats 10 feet or longer and sailboats at least 10 feet but less than 12 feet in length.

Section 1 simply states that the new sections (2–7) will be added to ORS Chapter 830. In other words, this bill amends ORS 830.

Section 2 establishes the Waterway Access Fund, which is separate from the general fund, in the Oregon Treasury. Here is where the first misunderstanding with some paddlers seems to be occurring. Funds collected from sales of the Waterway Access Permit go directly into the Waterway Access Fund (hereafter referred to simply as the “Fund”); they do not go into the general fund. Interest earned from monies within the Fund goes into that fund, as does any monetary gifts OSMB receives that are earmarked for the Fund. From the Fund, OSMB will award grants for a variety of items identified in sections 3 and 4.

Section 3 addresses how funds from the Fund are to be used and by whom. OSMB will issue the funds in the form of grants to public bodies (state, local, and special governments), federally recognized Indian tribes in Oregon, and federal agencies for the purpose of:

  • purchasing real property, leases, or easements in order to provide access to public waterways;

  • constructing, renovating, expanding, or developing public boating facilities; and

  • constructing, renovating, expanding, or developing public play parks for non-motorized boating, such as whitewater parks and competition courses.

Priority will be given to projects that serve non-motorized boaters and public boating facilities determined to have the greatest need for construction, renovation, expansion, or development.

Section 4 allows OSMB to provide grants to non-profit organizations that qualify as 501(c)(3) or (4) under Internal Revenue Code, public bodies, federally recognized Indian tribes in Oregon, federal agencies, and private entities for the purpose of improving boating safety education and providing waterway access to underserved communities. Underserved communities can be communities of:

  • minority individuals,

  • financially insecure families, or

  • individuals with disabilities.

In addition, OSMB also can issue grants to assist in paying costs incurred from:

  • providing boating safety education, and

  • purchasing boating equipment.

Section 5 establishes the waterway access permit and outlines who is required to purchase the permit. Most individuals 14 years of age or older are required to have on their possession the permit when paddling a non-motorized boat 10 feet in length or longer; for sailboats the length is 12 feet but less than 12 feet. The rule doesn’t apply to:

  • persons operating a boat from a livery if the operator of the livery displays proof of holding a waterway access permit;

  • days the OSMB board designates as free boating days;

  • persons operating a non-motorized boat on federally designated wild and scenic rivers for which a separate fee system is in place;

  • persons operating a non-motorized boat when engaged in law enforcement, public safety, or official business of a federal, state, or municipal agency;

  • residents of a bordering state who launch a non-motorized boat into bordering waters; or

  • persons holding a non-motorized boating permit, registration, or similar authorization issued by another state and accepted by the OSMB board.

Section 6 is probably the most contentious with paddlers as it outlines the waterway access permit fees. One thing that needs to be made clear is that the permit does away with the need to purchase a separate AISP. The fees are as follows:

  • $5 for a one-week permit,

  • $17 for an annual permit, and

  • $30 for a biennial permit.

Livery boat operators would annually pay for boats 10 feet in length or longer:

  • $90 for six to 10 non-motorized boats,

  • $165 for 11 to 20 non-motorized boats, and

  • $300 for 21 or more non-motorized boats.

The money from the fees is apportioned to the Fund as such:

  • For the $5 one-week permit, $4 go to the Fund, and $1 goes to the AISP.

  • For the $17 annual permit, $12 go to the Fund, and $5 go to the AISP.

  • For the $30 biennial permit, $20 go to the Fund, and $10 go to the AISP.

  • For the $90 permit paid by a livery operator with 6–10 non-motorized boats, $60 go to the Fund, and $30 go to the AISP.

  • For the $165 permit paid by a livery operator with 11–20 non-motorized boats, $110 go to the Fund, and $55 go to the AISP.

  • For the $300 permit paid by a livery operator with 21 or more non-motorized boats, $200 go to the Fund, and $100 go to the AISP.

Section 7 outlines who can issue the waterway access permits and fees issuing agents may charge. The rule is pretty much unchanged from the current AISP fee. Agents may charge a service fee of $2 in addition to the waterway access permit fee.

Every other section pretty much remains unchanged with the exception of some minor word changes.

One thing about this bill that should interest paddlers and that is spelled out in section 3 is it allows OSMB to issue grants for the development of whitewater parks. A couple of years ago, there was a proposal to build a whitewater park where the currently unused Willamette Falls lock sits. However, there wasn’t sufficient money available to build the park. Money raised from the waterway access permit could alleviate cost issues pertaining to construction of the park.

One argument I have seen written many times on social media is that the public waterways belong to everyone and that everyone should have free access to them. I suspect those making this argument have no issue with motorboat operators having to register their boats.

Non-motorized boaters need to pay their fair share so that facilities can be constructed that cater to them, so they have designated parking spots and aren’t tempted to park in spots reserved for trailer parking. I have seen this many times, and the fine for parking in a trailer parking spot without a boat trailer is rather pricey.

If I have one beef with the senate bill, it’s that it excludes non-motorized boats shorter than 10 feet. This might please many whitewater paddlers who own play boats, but people with Pelicans and other similar brands of kayaks shorter than 10 feet still need parking spaces and access to the water and, therefore, should also have to pay the fee.

Section 8 was added by the House. The section stipulates that OSMB will collaborate with paddling organizations, relevant recreation users, and law enforcement agencies that enforce boating laws for the purpose of educating non-motorized boat users about the requirement to obtain a waterway access permit.

Section 9 is just house cleaning.

Section 10 and 10a grants powers to OSMB to implement ways of tracking registrations; the sale of permits; studying, planning, and recommending development of boating facilities; and carrying out other administrative duties.

Section 11 deals with fines and stipulates that operating a non-motorized boat 10 feet or longer without having a waterway access permit is a Class D, and subject to a $115 fine.

Section 12 stipulates that anyone operating a non-motorized boat on Oregon waters must first obtain a waterway access permit. I see nothing in the bill exempting non-motorized boat users from other states, so it is understanding from the bill that they would also need to acquire the waterway access permit.

Section 13 deals with issuing the new aquatic invasive species permit which is actually part of the new waterway access permit.

Section 14, 14a, and 14c spell out the cost of the aquatic invasive species permit, which is:

  • $5 annually for non-motorized boats 10 feet or longer,

  • $30 annually for an operator or livery with six to 10 boats,

  • $55 annually for 11 to 20 boats, and

  • $100 annually for 21 or more boats.

Section 15 applies to fees imposed on and after January 1, 2020.

Section 16 instructs OSMB to provide two reports to legislative committee on natural resources and the details of those reports.

Section 17 repeals Section 16 after January 2, 2022.

Section 18 specifies that sections 2 through 9, 10, 10a, and 12 to 14c take effect beginning January 1, 2020. The other sections take effect August 1, 2020.

Sections 19 and 20 just deal with the legislative bill protocols that don't provide any additional information about the permit.

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