What’s 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.
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.