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Grace period to end Aug. 1 for Oregon paddlers without permits

Either not knowing — or pretending not to know — that rafters and others in nonmotorized floating devices 10 feet or longer need a new state waterways access permit has been met with little more than a waterway lecture from boating authorities the past seven months.

But beginning Aug. 1, that little lecture could come with a $115 fine.

State marine officials Aug. 1 will start writing tickets for people who fail to comply with the new Waterway Access Permit requirements aimed at helping keep aquatic invasive species out of Oregon while also improving boating facilities for rafters, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders.

The law requiring the $17 annual permit, or $7 weekly permit, was passed by the Oregon Legislature last year to replace the Aquatic Invasive Species permit. The money goes to the Oregon State Marine Board’s new boating-facilities program used to fund ramps and other infrastructure.

The law had a seven-month grace period written into it by legislators, and that sets with the sun July 31, Marine Board spokeswoman Ashley Massey said.

“Initially, it was all about education, but beginning Aug. 1, they’ll certainly be out looking for compliance,” Massey said.

Under the law, anyone operating a nonmotorized boat 10 feet or longer must carry a valid pass. While a pass can be used for an owner’s different boats such as, say, a kayak and an SUP, each water craft under way must have its own permit in possession of the paddler.

Those without permits face a Class D violation that carries a $115 fine under Oregon law. However, marine deputies in Jackson County and elsewhere have the discretion to issue warnings or “fix-it tickets” that could lead to the waiver or fines, but not administrative fees, in a court appearance.

And by the barometer of Sgt. Shawn Richards of Jackson County’s marine program, the vast majority of paddlers are not on board.

“Compliance is extremely low, about 2 percent,” Richards said. “There’s been an explosion of nonmotorized (boaters), and almost nobody has them. It’s all we’re doing all day, educating people all day about what they need, because they don’t have a clue. It’s crazy.”

The Legislature last year enacted a $12 waterway access fee to fund lake and river access projects for paddlers. It was tacked on to the previous $5 invasive species annual permit, costing these boaters $17 for one year or $30 for two years.

The agency was expecting to raise about $1 million from the new fee in this first year, and the Marine Board touted a paddlers-only ramp at the Rogue River’s popular Shady Cove boat ramp as a prime possibility.

However, improvements to the Shady Cove ramp are not part of the first round of proposed projects for potential funding this year, according to the Marine Board. A city of Gold Hill request for a $37,322.36 vault toilet at Ti’lomikh Falls on the Rogue is the only local project amid a raft of 19 funding proposals up for public comment through Aug. 7, according to the Marine Board.

To comment, see oregon.gov/osmb/boating-facilities/Pages/Boating-Facility-Grant-Applications.aspx

To buy a waterway access permit, visit the Boat Oregon Store at oregon.gov/osmb/Pages/index.aspx.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Paddle boarders stay cool out at Emigrant Lake on Tuesday.