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Underway Newsletter

HeaderNew Boating Laws for 2020 to Improve Environmental Stewardship, Safety, Education

The 2019 legislative session was a busy one in which seven bills were introduced by the agency. All of these passed, including the agency's operating budget. Most of the legislative concepts were in response to issues brought forward from stakeholder groups, boating clubs, advocacy groups, and agency partners. There were also several non-agency bills sponsored by legislators on behalf of interest/environmental groups or private citizens that affect Oregon boaters. One bill allows the Marine Board to consider land use planning (Goal 15) in any future rulemaking on boat operations on the Willamette River (HB 2351). Another, HB 2352, creates a towed watersports education program within the Marine Board and requires an additional education endorsement for anyone engaged in wake surfing and wakeboarding activities on the Willamette River (Newberg Pool, RM 30-50) in Clackamas, Marion and Yamhill Counties. 

Here's a run-down of the new legislation and some of the changes coming to recreational boaters beginning January 1, 2020:

  • To minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species, motorized boaters will be required to “pull the plug" when leaving a Pull the Plug Adwaterbody and during transport to allow any water-holding compartments to drain (transporting live crab or fish is against the law per ODFW regulations). The fine for failure to pull the plug is $30 for non-motorized boats and $50 for motorized boats and is a Class D violation. Law enforcement was also given the authority to order a person back to an aquatic invasive species boat inspection station if a boater bypasses the mandatory boat inspection station and the station is within five miles. If a person fails to go back to the station for an inspection/decontamination, they can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor ($1,250 and or 30 days in jail). Protecting our waterways from aquatic invaders is the goal and compliance with boat inspection station requirements is vital to achieving it.
  • Boat Rental Business (Livery) registration will be required so the agency can gather more robust information about the type of boats being rented and provide businesses with applicable boating safety education and outreach materials for employees to pass along to their customers. Better-informed customers help make the waterways safer and help protect the rental business from liability. There is no charge associated with registration, but failure to register is a Class B violation ($265 fine). Current motorboat registration discounts apply. 
  • There's no longer a 60-day boating safety education card exemption for new boat owners.  Taking a boating safety course and carrying a boating safety education card is now required when operating a motorboat over 10 hp, regardless of when the boat was purchased.  A new boat owner will need to take an approved boating safety education course and carry a boater education card before taking the boat out for a spin, just like a motor vehicle requires a valid driver's license. Most states have some form of mandatory education requirement and out-of-state boating safety education cards are accepted; however, if the resident state doesn't have boating safety education, the boat operators will need the Oregon boater safety education card. The mandatory education program was first enacted in 1999, so the program is now 20-years old.
  • The definition of reckless boating was updated to reflect the motor vehicle code. The Marine Board and the courts can now suspend a boating safety education card if the operator is convicted for reckless boating or boating under the influence of intoxicants (BUII). Suspensions allow for up to one year for convictions of reckless boating and 1-3 years for BUII. On another note, the fine was reduced for not carrying a properly fitting life jacket from a Class B violation ($265) to a Class D violation ($115), to mirror a seat belt infraction in the motor vehicle code.
  • Motorized boat titles and registrations were increased by 33%, or $1.45, and fees are combined into a flat fee based on boat length. Title fees will increase to $75 and the boating safety education card will increase to $20. Replacement boating safety education cards will increase to $16. 
  • The Waterway Access Permit replaces the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit for non-motorized boats 10' long and longer. Sailboats over 10' and under 12' will also need a Waterway Access Permit. Permits are available online through ODFW's eLicensing System and effective January 1, 2020, the one and two-year permits are available through the Marine Board's Boat Oregon Store. There are three permit options: one week (7-days) for $7 (through ODFW), one calendar year for $17, and two calendar years for $30. NOTE: ODFW charges a $2 transaction fee). Rental businesses for non-motorized boats can receive bulk discounts for Waterway Access permits through the Marine Board's Boat Oregon Store. A portion of the revenue will continue to support aquatic invasive species prevention program and new revenue will support non-motorized boating facility grants to facility providers for improvements or development of non-motorized boating access.

Non-Agency Legislation:

  • HB 2652 –“The Helmet Law," requires outfitter guides to offer helmets (whether for purchase or rent) to customers when recreating on waterways with Class III or higher whitewater rapids. The Marine Board approved rules for implementation during their October Board meeting, held on October 24, 2019.
  • HB 3168 –Grants authority to the Marine Board to make rules for non-motorized lakes previously regulated in statute to allow the use of electric motors at not-to-exceed slow-no wake speed. Since the passage of the bill, two petitions have been received/noticed for Gold Lake and North and South Twin Lakes, which the Board will consider during their January 22nd Board meeting in Salem.
  • HB 2351 –“The Willamette Greenway Bill" requires the Marine Board to consider Land Use Planning Goal 15 for any new rulemaking or special regulations relating to the operation of boats within the Willamette River Greenway from Cottage Grove Reservoir to the confluence with the Columbia River. The Board considered Goal 15 during their October 24 Board meeting and opened rulemaking for the Newberg Pool and Lower Willamette River from below the falls to the confluence. Rule Advisory Committees have been convened and will consider rules to bring to the Board in the future.   
  • HB 2352 –Creates a towed watersports education program within the Marine Board and requires an endorsement for boaters who wakeboard and wake surf on the Willamette River between river miles 30 – 50 (the Newberg Pool). This education requirement applies to the boat operator who must pass an approved towed watersports education course (with a minimum passing score of 70%) and the boat owner must affix a special decal on their boat. The education course will consist of a home study manual (downloadable PDF) and a proctored exam held in various locations near the Newberg Pool, the local sheriff's office, and the Marine Board office in Salem. The cost of the course is $60 and the boat operator may apply for their towed watersports education card and decal for their boat at that time. The decal is specific to the boat. The boat operator must also report the factory loading weight and other manufacturer data to the Marine Board in the decal application. The Towed Watersports Education Card and decals are valid for two calendar years and must be renewed. 
  • HB 2835 –The bill requires state agencies to post notice before restricting or closing a site on state public lands where the public may access floatable natural waterways. The bill also requires the Oregon Department of Transportation to notify certain agencies of recommendations to fund bridge projects under the draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program and consider public access sites near proposed bridge projects. The Marine Board will be notified by state agency partners of any construction closures and will post this information on the agency's interactive Boat Oregon Map, which currently shows all of the developed public access sites in the state. Public boating access facilities are owned and operated by city, county, state, and federal entities. 

With all of these program updates and fee changes, the agency is working closely with marine law enforcement and other agency partners, rental businesses, and facility managers to implement these new laws as smoothly as possible and to allow time to coordinate education and outreach. The ultimate goal is not to cite people, but to educate and improve safety for all water users, protect our waterways from aquatic invasive species, and understand the impacts of boat operations on shorelines, sensitive habitats, and property. The Marine Board's mission is to "serve Oregon's recreational boating public through education, enforcement, access, and environmental stewardship for a safe and enjoyable experience." These new laws touch on each area of our mission, but ultimately, it's up to each and every boater to display courteous and considerate behavior toward other users, employ practices that protect the environment and recognize the impacts of boat operations on others so everyone can have a fun and safe time on the water.  

Whats the Waterway Access Permit and What Does it Mean for Paddlers?

The short and simple answer is that people who operate non-motorized boats 10' long or longer will need to purchase and carry a permit just like they did with the aquatic invasive species permit (AIS). The difference is the permit costs more, has a different name, and will fund two important programs. Hole in the Wall boating access site managed by PGE

Where did this legislation come from? Nearly ten years of work with external stakeholder groups, clubs and individual boaters from the paddling, cruising, outdoor sportsmen and watersports communities, led to the development of the agency's strategic plan to address a variety of issues with the goal of finding ways to better serve “all boaters." In 2015, the Oregon Legislature told the agency to look into a funding mechanism to support non-motorized boaters. In 2017, the agency proposed legislation that ultimately failed because of safety components in the bill that many thought were over-reaching. So in 2018, the agency took another approach with what everyone could agree on from the 2017 session -access. The agency vetted legislative concepts with stakeholder groups, held public open houses statewide and refined the concepts further based on additional feedback.  This process helped shape what became SB 47, the Waterway Access Account.        

The Oregon State Marine Board is a fee-based agency and does not receive state general fund dollars. Fees come from motorboat registration and title fees that help pay for services that at one time, primarily served motorized boaters directly. The agency also receives marine fuel tax revenue and applies for competitive federal grants to support its programs. Like any outdoor recreation (biking, hiking, horseback riding, etc.), boating activities have evolved and so have the needs. Look at any waterway today, and it's difficult to ignore the diversity of boats on the water.

Paddling in particular really took off in the last decade and is one of the most popular water-based recreation activities. Over time, the needs of the paddling community and requests for grant funding from facility managers have surpassed the agency's ability to meet those needs and absorb the costs. With declining motorboat registrations and federal funding tied to those registration numbers, the agency has been in a position of being asked to do more with less. Economic drivers aside, stakeholders on all sides of boating recreation acknowledged that a level of fiscal “fairness" needed to be woven into the conversation and “access" resonated with the majority of boaters and facility owners alike. 

The Waterway Access Account will provide grant funding to public boating facility managers to improve or develop new access specific to the needs of non-motorized boaters and while still supporting aquatic invasive species prevention efforts. 

Boats 10' long and longer are required to carry a Waterway Access Permit (one permit per boat –including Stand Up Paddleboards), children 13 and younger are exempt, and permits are transferrable to other non-motorized boats. There are three permit options: $7 for a week (available only through ODFFW and is valid for 7 days from the date of purchase), $17 for an annual permit, and $30 for a two-year permit. The one week permit is perfect for paddlers from out-of-state or people new to paddling and can be purchased through ODFW's eLicensing system, as well as annual and two-year permits.  ODFW charges an additional $2 processing fee. One and two-year Waterway Access Permits can also be purchased through the Marine Board's Boat Oregon Store. Because youth 13 and younger are exempt, proponents are hoping the permit isn't a barrier to families wanting to enjoy paddling.  Failure to show marine law enforcement a valid permit is a Class D Violation with a $115 fine. Citation fees go into the state or county general fund accounts, not back to the county sheriff's office or Marine Board.

The agency hopes to raise $1.5 million in revenue for the first two years and to put the money on the ground as soon as possible, with projects already lining up in the queue.  The agency tries to leverage every dollar with applicant match funding to amplify the project value.

The Waterway Access account will also help fund staging areas; expand single car parking, low freeboard docks, and kayak launches, restrooms, etc.   The account also allows for education grants to non-profits and public bodies to develop safety education courses and purchase boating equipment to help reduce barriers for underserved communities.  For example, the Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, and other groups could apply for education funding and introduce recreational boating to a wide array of kids and adults.  It's also important to note that agency staff and facility providers have noticed that mixed-use boating facilities can help ease congestion and reduce safety issues through improved facility design while also helping the agency better serve all boaters.    

Many in the paddling community supported the idea of having dedicated funds for non-motorized access as long as they see where the money is going.  Fortunately, the Marine Board has been successful in showing 90 percent of the agency's expenditures go back to boaters, and has supported motorized boating needs for 60 years.  What took the agency 60 years to build can be also be done with the help of the paddling community.   

The Oregon Legislature requires a report after the first and second year after implementation on the revenue and expenditures along with grant project details.  The Marine Board currently completes an Aquatic Invasive Species Program Report and has done so since that program was implemented, and welcomes the legislative report mandate.    

The Waterway Access Permit requirement goes into effect January 1, 2020; however, compliance will not be enforced until August 1, 2020, to allow time for education and outreach through our marine law enforcement partners, rental facilities, and other agency partners. 

Learn about the legislation during the 2019 session.  Be sure to check out the agency's story map with examples of the types of projects this funding could develop.

Towed Watersports Education Program

The Oregon State Marine Board is implementing a new Towed Watersports Education Program geared toward boat operators engaged in wakeboarding and wake surfing in the Newberg Pool (river miles 30-50) of the Willamette River. This education is required by the passage of HB 2352 from the 2019 legislative session.

Beginning January 1, boat owners/operators towing people engaged in wakeboarding and wake surfing in this area will be required to take a towed watersports education course and to successfully complete a proctored equivalency exam with passing score of 70% or higher. After completing the course and test, boaters will receive a towed watersports education endorsement, which is similar to the already required boating safety education card. The law also requires the owner/operator to report their boat's make, model, and year of manufacture, in addition to the loading weight (dry weight plus factory ballast capacity as reported by the manufacturer). To receive the decal that authorizes a watercraft to participate in wakeboarding and wake surfing, a boat's loading weight must be less than 10,000 pounds. Boats over this weight capacity will not be allowed to engage in wakeboarding and wake surfing in the Newberg Pool, although heavier boats may still cruise or engage in other activities along this section of the river and follow existing rules of operation. The education requirement applies to any motorboat towing persons engaged in wakeboarding and wake surfing activities.

The education course will be offered as a home study and proctored exams can be taken at the Marine Board office in Salem between 8 am - 3:30 pm M-F, and are scheduled once a month through August at Active Watersports (Canby and Oregon City Locations). 

If boat operators have difficulty scheduling an exam or need special accommodations, they are asked to contact the Marine Board at 503-378-8587.

 The cost of the education course and decals is $60. Additional decals for multiple boats or decal replacements can be purchased for $15.

Once an application is approved, the education card and decals will be sent by U.S. Mail. Decals need to be affixed to the stern on both the port and starboard sides.

The Towed Watersports Education Card and decals are valid for two calendar years and must be renewed. There are no additional testing requirements after first earning the Towed Watersports Education Card. 

Local zoning rules for towed watersports are also in effect and the Board approved opening rulemaking at their January 22nd meeting to "tweak" the zoning rules to better address safety and environmental concerns. The agency will solicit written public comments once draft rules are developed. If any changes are approved for the 2020 boating season, the course material will be updated. 

For more information and the most up-to-date testing locations, visit the Marine Board's Towed Watersports Education Program page.

In this Issue

New Boating Laws for 2020 to Improve Environmental Stewardship, Safety, Education

What's the Waterway Access Permit and What Does it Mean for Paddlers?

Towed Watersports Education Course Required for Wake Boat Operators in the Newberg Pool

Survey Says!

The Marine Board wants to make sure your boating dollars go toward serving you; that's why we're doing more online! The fuel use, triennial boat use, and customer satisfaction surveys are sent to boaters in an email (randomly selected) via a third-party vendor (Qualtrix), saving postage and mailing costs while making it more efficient for boaters being surveyed. Many thanks to those of you who have participated! This also leads to better real-time data and staff efficiencies. In the case of the fuel use survey, responses lead to fuel tax funding! 


Clean Boater

Learn how YOU can be a Clean BoaterCome to the agency office and receive a free Clean Boater bag! Clean Boater Bags will also be given to Boat Oregon classroom instructors to hand out to folks who successfully complete our boating safety course.


Charter, Outfitter & Guide Program

Want to try Whitewater Rafting or other boating activity but aren't sure where to start? Go with a registered Outfitter Guide! Use the Marine Board's Boat Oregon Store to see what businesses are in good standing and meet the safety and legal requirements so you know you're in good hands for your adventure. Click on the Online Services link and select "Guides and Charters Lists." Did you know that any recreation guide needs to register with the Marine Board? Yep...this includes ATV/Dune Buggies, equestrian riding, rock climbing, wilderness adventures, and more! 

Agency Budget

Your registration, title and permit fees, as well as marine fuel taxes help fund the Marine Board, No lottery, general fund tax dollars or local facility parking fees support the agency or its programs Boater-paid fees support recreational boaters through boating safety services (on-water law enforcement, training and equipment), boating safety education, grants for the construction and maintenance of boating access facilities, and environmental protection programs. Check out the revenue and expenditure projections for the 2019-2021 biennium.

Connect with us Online!


And Sign Up for Boat Oregon News! News releases announcing rulemaking, Board meetings, and other pertinent boating safety information, sent to your email.


Abandoned Derelict Vessel Program

Recreational boats are abandoned or become derelict for many reasons.  Derelict and abandoned vessels can cause various problems in and outside of marinas, including water quality degradation, pollution, and damage to public and private property when they sink or go adrift. In marinas, they take up valuable slip space and can be a source of pollution. They also decrease the aesthetic value of the area and create hazards for responsible boaters. Learn how to responsibly dispose/recycle your boat when it's past its useful life. Be a part of the solution. 

Marine Law Enforcement

The agency contracts with 32 county sheriff's offices and the Oregon State Police to provide on-the-water marine patrol services. Over 44% of the Marine Board's revenue goes toward marine law enforcement contracts and includes cost-sharing for enforcement boats and equipment, marine training for boat handling and enforcing marine laws, and special emphasis patrols to address localized boating safety issues.  In cases of a serious boat accident, the agency enlists the expertise of a hand-full of specially-trained officers (Boat Accident Investigation Team) to do a comprehensive, forensic reconstruction. Marine law enforcement also provides front-line on-water safety to boaters in need and help evaluate and mitigate (where possible) waterway obstructions. Some of the county programs also have marine law enforcement certified for dive team operations, swift water rescue, and recovery. 

On top of all of these duties, marine law enforcement frequently posts boating safety signage at boat ramps, replace and re-anchor informational/regulatory buoys, proctor boating safety equivalency exams, go to local area schools and events to teach boating and water safety. 

Enforcement blue light law

If you see a flashing blue light or hear a siren, slow down to the slowest possible speed to maintain steering. When going by a stationary law enforcement boat displaying their blue lights, a 200' slow-no wake zone is in effect around their boat. 

Boating Facilities Program

Did you know that boating facility facelifts or new facilities can take 5-10 years to complete over several funding phases? Wonder why? It's called, "permits." Learn more about access timelines from concept to ribbon cutting for boating facilities looking at Cedaroak, managed by the City of West Linn.

(Pictured below: Newly completed North Pine Hollow Boat Ramp in Wasco County, nearly 10 years in the making.)

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