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Waterway Structure Registration - Q&A
dock photo  
Docks on Big Creek Arm, photo Chris Castelli
Q. What structures are subject to registration?
A. Any non-commercial, private use of the following located on state-owned submerged and submersible land is subject to registration with DSL:
  • Dock, float, and/or boat house of 2,500 square feet or less in size;
  • Floating recreational cabin of 1,500 square feet or less, and, under certain circumstances;
  • Water sport structure
Q. What is a floating recreational cabin?
A. A floating recreational cabin is defined as a "moored floating structure, accessible only by boat, used wholly or in part as a dwelling, not physically connected to anyupland utility services (for example, water, sewer, or electricity), and used only periodically or seasonally." The "duck shacks" on the lower Columbia River are good examples of a floating recreational cabin.
Q. What is a water sport structure?
A. A water sport structure is defined as "water ski buoys, jumps and ramps; kayak race gates; and other such devices used in association with a water recreational sport. Such devices are typically temporary in nature, and not permanently attached to a piling, dolphin, or other fixed object."
Q. Are any non-commercial, private use structures exempt from registration?
A. No. All non-commercial, private use structures occupying state-owned submerged and submersible land are subject to registration. If a structure is not eligible for registration because of size, type, or use, the owner must contact DSL to obtain the appropriate authorization for it to remain on state-owned land, for example, a lease.
Q. Are there circumstances when a structure eligible for registration can’t be registered?
A. Yes. If you want to place a structure (for example, a small dock) which is eligible for registration in front of someone else’s property, or already own such a structure that was placed after April 14, 1998, DSL may not allow you to register it.
When you apply to register a structure fronting someone else’s property, you will be asked to provide on the application form the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the owners of any adjacent riparian owner(s) within 200 feet of the structure you want to register. You will also be asked to contact each of these owners to find out if they have any concerns about your structure, and report these comments on the application form.
In addition to this public outreach, DSL will also send a copy of the registration application to the adjacent riparian property owner for comment. The riparian property owner will then have 30 days to comment on the application or to submit a registration application. If the owner objects to it, DSL will determine if the reasons given justify denial of the registration based on public trust, zoning or other considerations provided for in the administrative rules. If the riparian owner does not respond within the 30 day period, or the reasons s/he gives are insufficient to warrant denial, DSL will proceed to register the structure.
Q. What happens if DSL denies my application to register my structure?
A. If DSL denies your application to register a structure, it will advise you why it took this action. For example, DSL may determine that the structure you want to register is too large to be eligible for registration. Therefore, you will have to either reduce the size of the structure to meet the registration requirements, or obtain a lease or other form of authorization to use the state-owned submerged and submersible land on which it is placed. If the structure is in front of someone else’s riparian property and determined by DSL to not qualify for registration, you will have to remove it from that location.
Q. What city or county government approval is required before DSL will consider my application?
A. By law, DSL may not issue an authorization for a structure to occupy state-owned submerged and/or submersible lands unless it is in compliance with local comprehensive planning requirements. Before submitting the application to DSL, you must present the application to the local planning agency - city or county - for review and concurrence. You may be asked by the planning agency to comply with local requirements to obtain approval of the project. Before DSL will consider your registration application, the form must be signed by a local planning official in the appropriate section of the application.
Q. I thought that Oregon state law said that my privately-owned float or dock did not have to be authorized if it occupied an area of 200 square feet or less, and was "uncovered, unenclosed, and open on all sides;" orwas less than 1,000 square feet in size and constructed prior to September 29, 1991.
A. Although ORS 274.043 exempts such structures from lease, it also requires that they must be registered with DSL. Specifically, ORS 274.043(4) states:
"…any float or dock described in subsections (1) to (3) of this section
shall be registered with the Department of State Lands."
Q. What do I get in return for registering my structure?

Woahink Lake photo Chris Castelli
A. Aside from being in compliance with the law, by registering your dock, float, boat house, floating recreational cabin or other eligible structure you will have a document which proves to insurers, other government entities, and prospective property purchasers that your structure is authorized to occupy state-owned land. When DSL issues a registration, we will also send a copy of it to the county recorder or other appropriate official of the county in which the structure is located. This will ensure that public records correctly indicate that you have the State of Oregon’s authorization to occupy state-owned land. DSL will also use dock registration data to help make appropriate waterway management decisions and improvement investments.
Q. Does the square foot size limitation on registrable structures include associated gangways, dolphins, pilings, and protective booms?
A. No. The square foot size limitations apply only to the primary structure. The gangways used solely to access the structure, any booms which protect it, and the pilings and/or dolphins to which the structure is tied are not included in determining the size of the structure and whether it is eligible for registrable.
Q. What is the difference between this registration and that which is required by the Oregon State Marine Board?
A. Oregon state law (ORS 830.850 to 830.870) requires that owners of floating homes and boat houses obtain a certificate of title and identification plate from the Oregon State Marine Board. Once issued, this certificate of title serves as proof that the floating home or boat house belongs to the person named.
The registration required by DSL authorizes the owner of an eligible non-commercial dock, float, boat house, floating recreational cabin and, in certain instances, water sport structure to legallyoccupy state-owned submerged and submersible land.
Q. Why is DSL allowing some structures to be registered and not others?
A. In 1996, the Land Board appointed an eighteen member Waterway Leasing Task Force to review and suggest changes to DSL’s Waterway Leasing Program. Among the findings of this Task Force was that owners of privately-owned, non-commercial docks, floats, boat houses, floating recreational cabins, and similar structures should be treated in a different manner than commercial lessees of state-owned lands. DSL concurred with this conclusion, and developed this registration program to address this distinction between non-commercial and commercial uses.
Furthermore, as already discussed, the Oregon State Legislature specifically provided by statute in 1991 that DSL register small, privately-owned floats and docks. This registration program follows that statutory requirement and, at the same time, ensures that similar, private-owned non-commercial structures are treated equally and equitably.
Q. Why must I renew my registration every five years?
A. DSL manages state-owned submerged and submersible land on behalf of the public, taking into account the public trust rights on these waterways of fishing, navigation, commerce, and recreation. By requiring that an eligible structure be registered every five years, DSL can:
  • Have a means to update its inventory of structures occupying state-owned submerged and submersible land,
  • Ensure that a previously registered use of the submerged and submersible land continues to be as originally reported,
  • Manage the public’s land to ensure that other values and uses are recognized and preserved, and
  • Properly allocate DSL´s waterway planning and improvement investments.
Q. Why are you asking me to provide the names and addresses of everyone owning riparian land within 200 feet of my structure, and submit their comments?
A. If you own a structure which meets the requirements for registration, and was in place at the time that these rules were adopted (April 14, 1998), you do not have to provide DSL with this information. DSL assumes that the structure you own has gained acceptance from your neighbors and is, for all intents and purposes, considered by them to be "a part of the landscape."
However, if you construct or place a structure on state-owned submerged and submersible land after April 14, 1998, you must provide DSL with the above information. DSL requires this information to determine whether the structure you are proposing to build may interfere with the rights of the public (including neighboring riparian landowners) to use the waterway for fishing, navigation, commerce, and recreation. If it is determined to unreasonably interfere with these public trust rights, DSL may decide to place conditions on the registration or, if necessary, to not allow the structure to be built or placed at that particular location.
Q. What if a neighboring landowner simply doesn’t like the structure I want to build in front of my land? Will you stop me from building it?
A. In determining whether to offer a registration to you, DSL will consider the comments of neighboring landowners. However, DSL will determine the significance of these comments in light of the following three factors:
  • Does the structure allow the public to use the waterway and state-owned submerged and submersible land for fishing, navigation, commerce and recreation?
  • Does the structure comply with all applicable local, state, and federal laws and local comprehensive plan and zoning requirements?
  • Does the structure comply with the size and use limitations for registration?
If the comments received indicate that your structure conflicts with the requirements of any of these factors, DSL may deny your registration request.
DSL, however, will not, for example, deny an application for registration simply because the structure is of a color or shape which does not appeal to adjacent riparian owners unless local zoning requirements or other laws preclude such colors or shapes. If negative comments are received concerning your registrable structure, DSL will work with you as well as adjacent riparian landowners to attempt to resolve any problems.
Q. What rights does a registration give me?
A. A registration gives you the legal right to occupy the state-owned submerged and submersible land underlying your structure for the term of the registration.
Q. What will happen if I fail or refuse to obtain authorization from DSL for my structure?
A. If you fail to register or obtain the appropriate form of authorization to place a structure which is subject to registration, lease or license, DSL will seek your voluntary compliance with the law. If you then refuse to comply, DSL will consider your structure and use to be in trespass and seek your compliance with the law through the imposition of civil penalties or any other action allowable by law.
Q. What if the structure I registered is washed away by a flood? Do I have to re-register the new structure I build?
A. If you replace the structure you registered with one which is of the same size and use, you do not need to re-register it with DSL until such time that the registration you had on the destroyed structure expires.
However, if you expand the size of the structure, or change either the location or way it is used, you must re-register it with DSL prior to the change in location or modification. Based on the information you provide to DSL, we will determine whether the structure remains eligible for registration, or if you fall into a different fee classification.
Q. Do I have to register just a dolphin, piling, protective boom or mooring buoy?
          A. Yes.
Q. If I own several physically connected structures which are eligible for registration, can I register all of them using the same application form?
A. Yes. However, you may only use the same registration application form if the eligible structures are:
  • In the same location,
  • Physically attached to each other,
  • Within the same use category (for example, all docks/floats), and
  • Together total less than 2,500 square feet (or 1,500 square feet if physically attached floating recreational cabins).
If the structures you own do not meet allof these criteria, you must file a separate registration application form, and pay the required fee for each one.
Q. My neighbor and I built a dock which straddles our properties and which we share? How do we register this?

Siltcoos Lake photo Chris Castelli
A. You may submit a single registration application form for the dock (or float or boat house) indicating that both of you are owners in common.

Q. What about sharing a floating recreational cabin?
A. The same provision applies that you may register it as owners in common.
Q. I own a structure, part of which is eligible for registration. Can I register just that part and obtain a lease or other form of authorization for the other part?
A. No, you may not combine a registration and a lease for a single structure. To be eligible for registration, a structure must be exclusively used as a privately-owned, non-commercial dock, float, boat house, floating recreational cabin, or other similar structure.
However, if you own two structures at the same location, one of which is distinctly separate from the other and by itself eligible for registration, you may apply to register it. If the other structure is not eligible for registration, it will be subject to a lease, license, or some other form of authorization.
Q. You keep using the term "non-commercial." What does that mean?
A. As defined in the administration rules (OAR 141-082-0020(44), "non-commercial means a use which does not result in and/or is not associated with any monetary consideration or gain. For example, a use which includes the renting, leasing, or sale of space would not qualify as non-commercial."
Q.  How do I contact the Department?  
A.  You can contact the Department at the following addresses or numbers:
      Oregon Department of State Lands
      775 Summer St NE, Suite 100
      Salem, OR  97301-1279
      503-378-4844 (FAX)
      website:  http://www.oregonstatelands.us
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