[OSMB-News] Op-Ed Article: Marine Board -Honoring Our History and Welcoming Change
ashley.massey at state.or.us
Mon Nov 1 08:44:06 PDT 2010
For Immediate Release Date: Monday, November 1, 2010
Marine Board: Honoring Our History and Welcoming Change
An open strategic planning process is in the works, designed by Oregon's boaters.
What is the Marine Board? To registered motorboat operators, the Marine Board is the agency responsible for numbering watercraft, building boat launches and creating waterway safety regulations. Depending on your involvement in recreational boating, the Marine Board may represent something different. One thing is certain; recreational boating uses and interests have changed over time. How well is the Marine Board positioned to respond to those changes? The Marine Board is challenging operators of registered and non-registered boats to help shape the future direction of the agency through an open strategic planning process.
The Marine Board was founded in 1959 with help from the Oregon Federation of Boaters who lobbied for a dedicated boating agency in response to the federal Boating Safety Act of 1958. This coalition of boating advocates recognized the need to create an agency funded by and for recreational boaters. The agency was designed specifically for protecting public access to the waters in the state, to implement education to make boating safer, and to create a numbering system (registration) that accurately tracked and managed the number of motorized watercraft recreating on Oregon's waterways. At the time, this was a forward-thinking effort at self-government and the only one of its kind in the nation. The philosophy was simple, "User plays, user pays." Between registration and titling fees, motorboat fuel tax dollars and boating-related federal grants, the Marine Board is funded entirely by registered boats (motorized and sail boats over 12 feet). Revenue generated from registration and titling fees are turned back to the boaters in the form of marine patrols, boating facilities, and education/outreach efforts. An average of 86% of every dollar is returned to boaters through programs and services.
The past 50 years have seen constant evolution of boating in Oregon. The types of uses continually diversify, with each new boater bringing a new set of expectations to the table. In 1960 -the first year of registration -the Board registered 20,068 boats. By 1970, that number would increase to 89,739, and in 1999, the number peaked at nearly 200,000. In those forty years, boats were growing in size, speed and complexity. Only 30% of registered boats in 1970 were over 16' long and only 13% had inboard motors. By 2007, 57% were over 16' long and 34% had inboard motors. New technology has had a huge impact, too. In the 1970's, jet boats began a dramatic increase in numbers, enabling boaters to access waterways previously impassible to motorized boats. In the 1980's, personal watercraft brought a whole new generation to boating. In the late 1990's, wakeboard boats brought us "extreme" watersports.
In managing each of these evolutions, the Marine Board has implemented regulations to address user conflict and safety, closing some waterways to motorboats, prohibiting jet boats on certain stretches of rivers, and restricting personal watercraft to lakes, reservoirs and mainstem rivers. We've implemented regulations that have saved countless lives, such as requiring all youth 12 and younger to wear a life jacket. Mandatory boater education has reduced fatalities among registered boat operators, and the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program is addressing a key environmental issue of the day.
By design, the bulk of the actions taken by the Board have focused on registered boats. While registered boats peaked in 1999 and have now begun a slow decline, the popularity of manually powered boats has seen steady and strong growth. The increase is evident to anyone who spends time on the water. Canoes, kayaks, rafts, dragon boats and team rowing sports have increased dramatically. This healthy, low-impact activity is growing in popularity in all corners of the state, and especially in metropolitan areas with accessible waters.
With this popularity comes increased accidents. It's not uncommon now for manually powered boat fatalities to surpass motorboat fatalities in a calendar year. Marine officers in some counties report spending 70 and 80% of their time focusing on non-motorized use. In addition, paddlers expect safety on the water and seek regulations and services to ensure that. The Board funds law enforcement officers who regularly patrol whitewater rivers and coordinates the removal of dangerous snags to protect these users.
Recognizing the Need for Change in the Next Half-Century
The challenge we face as an agency is providing the access, law enforcement, safety education and environmental protections that Oregon's motorized and non-motorized boaters are demanding. How do we address the inevitable user conflict as different uses vie for the same waterway? What are the key environmental issues of the day, and how best should we address them? Where are the biggest safety concerns and what are the appropriate actions for the agency to take? And how do we deliver on this with a declining base of registered boaters funding the agency?
The strategic planning process will be guided by Marine Board staff, but developed by boaters. The Marine Board is your recreational boating agency so this is your opportunity to have a say in how to serve you best.
Meetings are scheduled in Medford, La Grande, Corvallis, Bend and Portland. Visit the Marine Board's website at www.boatoregon.com<http://www.boatoregon.com> for links to the strategic plan online survey, social media, OSMB blog and public meeting schedules.
Ashley A. Massey
Public Information Officer
Oregon State Marine Board
Ashley.massey at state.or.us<mailto:Ashley.massey at state.or.us>
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