State Marine Board to vote on new standards Tuesday

Oregon's roughly 1,150 licensed fishing, hunting and adventure guides are poised to accept some self-imposed professional and ethical standards in order to weed out rogue guides while helping the public pick legitimate guides.

The Oregon State Marine Board will be asked Tuesday to pass a suite of changes that represents the first major expansion of its guide program since it was formed in 1984.

The package, created after a series of public hearings and with help from an advisory committee that included guides and water police, addresses everything from stepped-up enforcement to proficiency tests and a new registry so the recreating public can check guides out before hiring them.

"I think it was a good cooperative effort with a lot of input, and I hope it serves the guides and the public well," said Randy Henry, a Marine Board policy analyst who worked on the project.

The Marine Board was set to discuss and vote on the package following a third and final public hearing set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in Eugene.

The five-member board will meet at the Red Lion Hotel, 205 Coburg Road.

So far, the proposals have been circulated among guides on the advisory committee and there have been no objections, Henry said.

The package includes a proposal to triple the annual license fee to $150 beginning in 2014. The increase, which is the first since 1987, will go into program management and more law enforcement — especially to weed out illegal guides.

Unlicensed guides siphoning potential business away from licensed guides have the legit members of this small group asking for more standards and enforcement.

The package up for vote includes a requirement that everyone functioning as a fishing guide must be registered. Current rules allow a guide to hire employees to work under his or her registration, causing enforcement problems and loopholes for tracking who is legal and who is not, according to the Marine Board.

The package also contains a process for disciplining guides and even allows the Marine Board to revoke the licenses of unethical or illegal guides.

The Marine Board also will be asked to implement an online "Outfitter and Guide Registration Listing" to allow the public as well as fellow guides access to licensing information as well as violations or convictions of particular guides.

This listing mirrors what is done for contractors, nurses, physical therapists and other registered or certified professions in Oregon.

The proposals also include raising the insurance minimum from $300,000 to $500,000, which would cost the average driftboat guide about $30 more per year, according to the Marine Board. That minimum has not been changed since the program's inception 27 years ago.

While the Marine Board can support the fee increase and revocation powers, those must be granted by the Oregon Legislature, which convenes again in 2012. Others without a specific timetable will become law once filed within a week, Henry said.

The Marine Board likely will add information about the new rules this fall to packets sent to guides for license renewals for 2012, Henry said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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