Your Marine Board contracts with 32 county sheriff's offices and the Oregon State Police to provide on-the-water marine patrol services. In waters where the federal government shares jurisdiction, the U.S. Coast Guard will also have a presence.
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 (BUII
, carriage requirements, registration or permit compliance, new rules for boat operation compliance). Marine officers are also assisting facility managers in wildfire-impacted areas.
In cases of a serious boat accident, the Marine Board will enlist the expertise of a handful 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 helps evaluate and mitigate (where possible) waterway obstructions that are an "extraordinary hazard to navigation." 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-anchors informational/regulatory buoys, proctors boating safety equivalency exams, go to local area schools, and events to teach boating and water safety.
Marine patrols are also available to check your certificate of number (registration) and required safety equipment known as a "boat inspection." They will also provide helpful local safety information. A boat that meets all of the regulatory and carriage/equipment requirements will be issued a Marine Board "Law Enforcement Decal." When this decal is on your boat, it lets other law enforcement know that the boat has been inspected, and contact with the boater is not needed (unless of course there is probable cause for a stop). This includes non-motorized boats, with the decal acting as a visual reminder that the boater has the required Waterway Access Permit on board.
Marine patrol officers can also perform
Hull Identification Number (HIN) inspections for boat titles and registrations. For both HIN and courtesy boat inspections, contact your local county sheriff's office to schedule (phone numbers below).
See a blue, flashing light? The "Blue Light Law" means that if you are approached by a law enforcement boat with blue lights flashing and/or its siren, you must slow to the slowest speed you can safely steer your boat. You may proceed unless otherwise directed by the law enforcement officer. When approaching a stationary law enforcement boat displaying blue lights, consider it to be the same as a boat ramp with a 200-foot no-wake speed zone around their boat. Slow immediately to the slowest speed to maintain steering. Alter your course so that you do
not interfere or inhibit the operation of the law enforcement boat. You may increase speed only when you're out
vicinity of the law enforcement boat.
So when you see a marine patrol officer, recognize the amount of knowledge, skills, and expertise required of them to effectively do their jobs. Diverse activities, users, and waterways, on top of increased popularity in water recreation, makes safety and serving the recreational boating community more of a challenge. Help do your part and boat safely!