The Oregon State Marine Board held a virtual work session on July 22 and their quarterly Board meeting on July 23, live-streamed from the agency’s Salem office. The Board denied three petitions and directed staff to draft rules for the Lower Willamette River in downtown Portland and North and South Twin Lakes in Deschutes County.
The Board reviewed a citizen petition to amend the Waterway Access Permit (WAP) expiration date to a full year from the date of purchase. Under current rules, the permit expires on December 31 of the year purchased for annual permits, and December 31 of the second year for two-year permits. The Board denied the petition for the following reasons: amending the permit expiration dates would create misalignment with other Oregon outdoor permits, enforcement would be more difficult for our law enforcement partners and the current rules were adopted less than one year ago. Public comments were sought, and public hearings held, prior to the adoption of the current rules.
The Board considered a second petition which proposed rules requiring all paddlecraft operators wear personal floatation devices (PFDs) when on the water between September 15 and June 1. This petition was denied; however, the Board directed staff to facilitate a more robust discussion via a work session in January 2021 to look at Oregon incident and fatality statistics, life jacket awareness campaigns, and options to improve life jacket wear for all boaters.
A third petition proposed the removal of towed watersports zones in the Newberg Pool on the Willamette River to allow all water activities and require wake surfing to occur in the middle of the river in an upstream direction only. The Board had previously denied a petition with the same language at their May meeting, citing conflict with a rulemaking process already open in the same area. The Board denied the petition again at the July 23 meeting, citing the recent adoption of new rules for the area which went into effect July 1, 2020. The Board wants to gauge the effectiveness of education and increased awareness around compliance with these rules. The Board gave the agency Director the authority to deny petitions related to the Newberg Pool on the Willamette River in the immediate future, with the condition that the Director informs the Board of any rejected petitions in the quarterly Board report.
The Board also directed staff to draft rules on two topics for which the rulemaking process was previously initiated.
In October 2019, the Board initiated the rulemaking process for the lower Willamette River and instructed staff to convene a Rule Advisory Committee (RAC) to address concerns and conflicts with boating activities in the lower River. Concerns raised by the RAC focused on rule concepts in a 3-mile stretch of the Willamette River in and around downtown Portland.
Concepts were presented to the Board at their May 2020 meeting; the Board refined the concepts and directed staff to solicit additional input from the RAC that included an extension of the Holgate Channel slow-no wake zone and pass-through zones north and south of Ross Island. A work session was held on July 22 in which potential regulations to ameliorate conflicts and safety concerns were discussed. The Board directed staff to convene a new RAC to take a comprehensive look at the Lower Willamette River from the Falls at Oregon City to Waverly Marina and to include relevant stakeholders from this area. This committee will identify river segments needing protection and determine areas where boaters may safely engage in wakeboarding and surfing activities.
In its final meeting action, the Board directed staff to propose rules for North and South Twin Lakes in Deschutes County that would allow the use of electric motors at slow-no wake speed for boaters with disabilities. The Board also directed staff to begin a thorough examination of the motor-prohibited lakes listed in ORS 830.180 to propose additional lakes which may be appropriate for electric motor use by boaters with disabilities. In 2019, the Marine Board was granted authority by the Legislature to adopt rules allowing electric motor use at slow-no wake speed on these lakes as a result of HB3168. To date, rules have been amended for one lake under this new authority; the Board adopted rules in January 2020 to allow electric motor use by all boaters at slow-no wake speed on Gold Lake in Lane County.
Once proposed rule language is developed for the Lower Willamette River and North and South Twin Lakes, the agency will seek written public comments. The Board can then vote to formally adopt the rules at their October 2020 Board Meeting.