By Mark Freeman
Powerboat operators would see registration fees rise by one third and nonmotorized boaters would pay new fees earmarked for better water access under the Oregon State Marine Board’s planned budget request in the upcoming Oregon legislative session.
The Marine Board on Friday unveiled the “legislative concepts” it will take to the Legislature in 2019, addressing declining revenues from boat registrations amid growing numbers of annual boating trips on Oregon’s popular lakes, rivers and estuaries.
They include a new waterways access permit, proposed to begin January 2020, that would cost $5 a week, $17 a year or $30 for two years for nonmotorized boats 10 feet and longer. It would replace the current $5 annual Aquatic Invasive Species permit.
Like the current invasive-species permits, the new permits would be transferable to other boats owned by permit holders, and the agency would expect to collectively sell about 58,000 of the three permit options annually, Marine Board spokeswoman Ashley Massey said.
The invasive species program would still get its $1.65 million every two years from the new permit, with the remaining money — estimated at $1.3 million in its first full biennium — going into a new waterway access account.
That account would fund grants for improving access for kayakers, rafters and others relegated for decades to boat ramps and other facilities designed for powerboats.
Grants could help build more facilities like the TouVelle State Park ramp that includes a powerboat launch ramp, access for boaters to carry kayaks to the water and parking spaces for trailered and nontrailered vehicles, as well as shared restroom facilities.
“We are responding to what we’re hearing from the boaters,” Marine Board Director Larry Warren said.
The powerboat registration fees would rise from the current $4.50 per foot to $5.95 per foot.
Any fee increases would have to be approved by the Oregon Legislature.
When the current motorized boat fees went into place in 2016, the Marine Board had hoped it would maintain service levels for six years. However, Oregon has experienced a 10-percent decline in motorboat registrations and lower fuel-tax revenue, the agency said.
The agency plans to tour the state in July to gather public input in open house-style public meetings. That tour will kick off at 7 p.m. July 10, in White City at the Jackson County Parks Department Auditorium, 7520 Table Rock Road.
The Marine Board expects to ask the Legislature in 2019 for a two-year budget of about $33 million. The agency is funded by registrations, title fees and marine fuel taxes paid by motorized boaters. It receives no state general fund or Oregon Lottery dollars.
The marine board not only governs Oregon waterways, it also pays for county marine law enforcement, oversees guides and outfitter programs and funds the invasive species program and check stations operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The new fee proposals highlight the Marine Board’s eight-pronged list of legislative concepts. Others include changes to outfitter and charterboat registrations and fees, a one-time increase to boater registration cards from $10 to $20, and allow the Marine Board to increase card suspensions from one year to three years for boating under the influence of intoxicants and a new one-year suspension for reckless boating.
The Marine Board also wants boat-rental companies to register with it and provide information about the numbers and types of boats they rent. There would be no charge.
The proposals also would require all boaters to “pull the plug” and open any vales to drain standing water while a boat is transported over land. Violations would carry a $30 fine for a nonmotorized boat and $50 for trailered motorized boats.