Monday, December 28, 2009

New Fee for Oregon Boaters

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Zebra and quagga mussels that can clog power plants and hydroelectric dams are the target of a new fee for Oregon boaters going into effect with the New Year.
Until now, only boats with motors had to pay to register their craft.
But the threat of waterborne invasive species prompted the Legislature to authorize a new fee for all boats over 10 feet long. This is the first time owners of rafts, drift boats, canoes and other nonmotorized watercraft will have to buy a permit to operate their boats within the state.

Boaters with motors will pay an extra $5 on top of their biannual registration fee, owners of nonmotorized boats will pay $7 for an annual permit, and out-of-state boaters will pay $22.

Permits can be bought from agents selling hunting and fishing licenses, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife offices, and through the department Web site. Permits are transferrable.

The estimated $3 million to be raised every two years will go into a dedicated fund to pay for five teams to travel around the state looking for the unwanted creatures and hosing them down with hot water to kill them, said Randy Henry, spokesman for the department, which will collect the money and run the program.
“They will work the big fishing tournaments, helping make sure their boats are clean, and have decontamination equipment so they can respond as needed on-site or be called to a contaminated vessel,” Henry said.
“As long as they use the revenue generated from the fees strictly for that program, it’s OK,” Grants Pass fishing guide Josh White said. “If they use it for other things, I would have serious disagreements with it.”
Dave Moskowicz of Confluence Consultants, who helped press for the program in the Legislature, said he could understand that owners of boats without motors would be unhappy with the new fees, because the infested boats are most likely to be motorized craft that have been sitting in a lake for a long time.
Moskowicz said the original concept had been to set up inspection stations at major border crossings, but constitutional issues arose over the authority to stop people hauling boats on trailers.
“The worst-case-scenario would be finding zebra or quagga mussels in the Columbia River, and impact the hydroelectric system,” said Henry.
It would cost an estimated $27 million for equipment, and another $25 million a year to operate it, to keep the 13 federal hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River system free from the mussels, Henry added. (The Spokesman Review, November 28, 2009)