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Boating Laws to Know

Pull the Plug Ad
Pull the Plug Law and Updates to Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention 
This law requires boat owners “pull the plug” after retrieving their boat and while transporting the boat on land. By allowing all water-holding compartments to drain, any aquatic invasive species will remain in the waterbody and not survive during transport, improving the odds of not spreading or introducing aquatic invasive species to Oregon's waterways. This law works closely with mandatory boat inspection stations that now give law enforcement the authority to require drivers who bypass an open aquatic invasive species inspection station to return to the station for inspection/decontamination if the station is within 5 miles. If you skip a mandatory boat inspection station, you may be ordered back or charged with a Class C misdemeanor ($1,250 and or 30 days in jail). Failure to "pull the plug" for a non-motorized boat is $30 and $50 for a motorized boat and is a Class D violation. Keeping our waterways pristine and contamination-free is the goal. Learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention.

Mandatory Boating Safety Education Program Updates:  
This 20-year-old law requires boat operators to complete an approved boating safety course as defined in ORS 830.084 prior to operating a boat with a motor greater than 10 horsepower. The 2019 updates remove the 60-day exemption for people who purchase a new or used boat and visitors from out of state. Out-of-state visitors are required to carry a card showing they have completed the level of education required in their home state of registration. If none is required, Oregon will accept any card for a NASBLA-approved boating safety course from other states. Boat operators from Washington State, who are exempt from the Washington mandatory education requirement, would need to either complete a Washington boating safety course and carry the Washington State card, or complete an Oregon -approved boating safety course and carry the Oregon card. 

Boating Safety Law Updates: This law allows the courts and the Marine Board to suspend the Boater Education Card for convictions for Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (BUII) for one to three years and allows for the suspension of the boater education card for one year for a conviction of reckless boating. The law also updated the language for reckless boating to the same standard language used in the motor vehicle code. 

Life Jacket Carriage Requirement: Reduces the fine for not carrying a life jacket from a B violation ($265) to a D violation ($115). In 2018, officers issued 826 warnings and 323 citations for adult life jacket violations. The agency expects this law will likely result in more citations and fewer warnings. Child life jacket violations (12 and younger) remain a Class B violation. 

Waterway Access Permit: This law creates a dedicated funding account where the revenue will be used to create or improve waterway access for non-motorized boaters on Oregon’s waterways. The Waterway Access Permit replaces the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit (which has been in place since 2009) and is required on all boats 10’ long and longer. One permit per boat. Permits are transferable to other non-motorized boats and children 13 and younger do not need a permit. The permit purchasing options are 1 week for $5 (valid for 7-days from the date of purchase through ODFW), 1 calendar year for $17, and 2 calendar years for $30. Tyvek tags are no longer sold. Revenue will be used to support boating facility grants for state agencies, local governments, park organizations, and tribal governments for the acquisition of property, leases, or easements in order for the public to access waterways and construction and maintenance of boating access facilities (low freeboard docks, restrooms, single car parking, kayak launches, etc.). Funds will also be available for public bodies and non-profit entities to develop safety education courses and to purchase boating equipment in an effort to reduce barriers for underserved communities wanting to learn how to safely boat on Oregon’s waterways. A portion of the revenue will continue to fund mandatory boat inspection stations and statewide aquatic invasive species prevention efforts through a partnership with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. View the story map with examples of boating access projects. Learn more from the Waterway Access Permit FAQ Page.

Boat Rental Business Registration: This law requires boat rental businesses to register with the Marine Board. Rental businesses are required to provide basic information about the business and the types of boats they rent to paying customers. Basic information will be used for outreach and education in an effort to reduce accidents and fatalities on Oregon's waterways by people renting a boat (both motorized and non-motorized). 

Whitewater Helmets: On any river section with Class III or higher whitewater, outfitters and guides are now required to offer or make available (whether for purchase or rent) a helmet for use by the customer. Helmet wear is not a requirement.

Federal Life Jacket Labeling Changes: The US Coast Guard updated life jacket labels, identifying jackets into two categories: wearable and throwable. There are different levels of performance rated with a number; the higher the number, the more buoyancy the jacket provides. Boaters are encouraged to read the label. Both old and new labels indicate the weight, chest size, and UDCG approval number as a starting point for finding the right life jacket for the activity. Labels indicate what the jacket is NOT approved for using icons and the zero-slash. Existing (legacy) labels with the different "types" of life jackets are still approved for use.  

Towed Watersports Education Endorsement: Boat operators engaged in wakeboard and wake surfing in the Newberg Pool (Willamette River, RM 30-50, roughly between Roger's Landing and Bernert Landing) are required to take a Towed Watersports Education Course and carry a Towed Watersports Education Card. This is proof for law enforcement that the boat operator is knowledgeable in towed watersports safety, wave management techniques, and operator responsibilities for accident prevention. Boat operators can complete this requirement by studying our course material and taking an equivalency exam. The cost is $20 and the card must be renewed every two calendar years. In addition, boats used for wakeboarding and wake surfing must have decals certifying that the owner/operator completed the Towed Watersports Education Program. This education requirement is in addition to the mandatory boater education course. Failure to carry a Towed Watersports Education Card, AND the Boat Oregon Education Card is a Class B violation, with a $265 fine. Furthermore, if the boat operator is cited a second time within a three-year period for wake-related violations, this could result in a Class A violation with a fine of $435 and up to a one-year suspension from boating by a judge. 

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES: In 2021, updates to this law were enacted Per ORS 830.649, people engaged in towed watersports on the Newberg Pool (Willamette River, RM 26.6-55, between Willamette Falls and the mouth of the Yamhill river) are required to carry a Towed Watersports Education Card. This is proof for law enforcement that the boat operator is knowledgeable in towed watersports safety, wave management techniques, and operator responsibilities for accident prevention. Boat operators can complete this requirement by studying our course material and taking an online exam. In addition, boats used for towed watersports must have decals certifying that the owner/operator completed the Towed Watersports Education Program and that their boat is in compliance with weight restrictions set by the Oregon Legislature in the statute. In 2022, the law was updated once more, to remove the local area rules for red and yellow zones of operation, expand the Newberg Pool Congested Zone from the confluence of the Yamhill River (RM 55) to Willamette Falls (RM 26.6), and boats must certify a maximum loading weight of under 5,500 pounds. All persons engaged in towed watersports must take the Towed Watersports Education Course and be able to present their education credentials to a law enforcement officer upon request. 

Motorized Boat Title and Registration Fees: Motorized boat titles and registrations were increased by 33%, or $1.45, and fees are combined into a flat fee based on boat length. Boat 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.