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The Ongoing Saga of HB 2320
The Oregon State Marine Board’s drive for absolute hegemony over our state’s boaters and navigable waters continues, unabated. The likely outcome of all this is a costly, protracted legal battle. In the end, the board’s attempt to weasel around Section 2 of the Oregon Admission Acts by claiming a registration fee is not a fee on navigation is likely to founder, because if you can’t navigate our waters without paying the fee, it is a de facto fee on navigation. There is little reason to believe the courts will be amused by the agency’s contortions.

All of this could have been avoided if the agency had actually worked with the nonmotorized-boating community in good faith. Instead they clearly set this result as their goal, and manipulated the process to achieve it. This can be seen not only in the board’s attempts to sidestep Section 2, but in their stacking the deck on their Nonmotorized Boating Advisory Committee. Of the 14 members on the committee only one was without commercial ties to the sport. This makes as much sense as having motorists represented by car dealers. The reason for the agency’s actions is simple; commercial interests align much more closely with the board’s agenda than those of private individuals.

To be clear, these shortcomings were brought to the attention of agency personnel early on. The result was sidestepping, denial, and dismissal of the concerns, basically saying, “We have what we want, now go away.”

As with the other aspects of the agency’s process, the online questionnaire was designed to give a patina of legitimacy to the board’s ambitions. In reality, the questionnaire was tilted to give the agency the result it wanted.

Not the least of the smoking guns here is the agency’s cobbling together of two completely separate issues into one bill: life jackets for floaters and nonmotorized boat registration. Such a measure would never qualify for the ballot, but here it gives the board the chance to claim an emergency regarding the floaters, while ramming through the onerous registration of boaters on that premise.

Adding insult to injury, to advance their agenda the board characteristically portrays nonmotorized boaters as deadbeats, unwilling to pay our way. The reality is that it is the board which refuses to earn its way. In this specious characterization of us, the agency conveniently neglects to mention that we are floating the Aquatic Invasive Species program. While we pay $5 per year for the permits, power boaters get theirs at $5 for two years, as part of their registration. Now they plan to extend the fees to those with boats under 10-feet, yet little outcry against this has arisen. Bear in mind, the board’s own statistics indicate our boats represent less than 1 percent of those found with infestations. Yet we pay at 200 percent the rate of power boaters, aren’t complaining, (much), and yet we are deadbeats. The board seeks to offset the appearance of inequity this poses by insisting that the transferrability of our permits makes up the difference, all the while knowing that most individuals have only one boat, or if they do have another boat, they usually get a permit for it so a guest can paddle it. Unfortunately, the legislators HB 2320 has come before seem to have little awareness of how they are being spun.

To be fair, the board has argued that nonmotorized boaters use agency-funded facilities, without paying. That argument has some legitimacy. But, also to be fair, it has to be noted that a gravel beach makes a better launch for many of us, than a boat ramp. In many cases, such natural areas have been paved over by the board to build their environment-damaging, habitat-destroying facilities. Having made it so we have little choice but to cross board-funded facilities to access the water, they now want to hold us responsible for paying for that inconvenience. To be fair.

As you might imagine, a three-decade long drive by the board to impose this head tax on Oregonians has generated many more examples of egregious behavior and attitudes on the part of the board. I’ll spare you from the full discussion, but suffice it to say: HB 2320 is bad law aimed at depriving every Oregonian of their birthright to navigate our waters free from taxes or fees, and the board’s arguments to support it are largely disingenuous.

Kroc Tries New Kayak Sessions 
Salem’s Kroc Center pool will be hosting Friday, daytime kayak sessions on a trial basis, starting April 7 and running to mid-May. The sessions will run from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. You can contact the center at 503.566.5762 for more information.