Oregon boating managers plan to relax how rafters, kayakers and other paddlers buy and carry their $5 annual permit, which exists to fund the fight against invasive species hitchhiking into the state's waterways.
The Oregon State Marine Board will mull next week whether to offer a two-year permit instead of the current one-year permit, and whether to give options other than the current paper permit.
The proposed changes come after boaters complained that more flexibility is needed in the permit system, which began a year ago and marked the first time these non-motorized boats had to pay any license fees in Oregon.
"We're trying to be flexible," said Glenn Dolphin, the Marine Board's invasive species program coordinator. "We can't accommodate every scenario that exists, but we're trying to accommodate the bigger ones we're seeing.
"I think we're getting there," Dolphin adds.
The Marine Board is scheduled to vote on the proposals during a meeting Thursday at the Portland Expo Center in conjunction with the Portland Boat Show.
In its first year, the Marine Board raised $825,063 by selling 157,031 permits. The sales funded a public-education program, and paid for boat-cleaning teams to inspect hulls for invasive species and wash boats before they could enter lakes or streams.
The permit program operates in tandem with Oregon's "Clean Launch Law," enacted by the state Legislature in 2009, which made it illegal to launch any boat with any aquatic species on the exterior.
These aquatic hitchhikers have been blamed for transferring non-native species such as quagga and zebra mussels into waterways nationwide, causing millions of dollars in damage.
The Oregon law includes native weeds of Oregon, as well as non-native species. Violations could lead to tickets totaling $287.
Under the law, one permit is required for any boat over 10 feet long, regardless of who owns the boat and who owns the permit. The permits are transferable, so anyone loaning an inflatable kayak to someone also can loan the permit.
The transfer rule allows a single owner of several boats to buy one permit, provided just one boat is used at a time.
Powerboaters pay their $5 fee as part of their biennial registration.
In December, the agency took public comments to learn how the first year of the program had been received by the public, and those comments helped create the proposed changes, Dolphin says.
Along with the current paper permit, a new proposal would add the option of a permanent sticker that could be affixed to boats or a Tyvek tag that could be carried or zip-tied to whatever boat was in use that day.
The Marine Board has also recommended allowing permits to be purchased directly from the agency, bypassing the $2 agent fee charged at sporting goods stores and other outlets.
Plans are to have boaters download an application from the agency's website, www.boatoregon.com, and mail in a check, Dolphin says. The permit would then be mailed to them, he says.
If adopted, the new two-year permits could be available to the public as early as the first or second week of February, Dolphin says.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.