Lifejacket sales will get a big boost this summer if the Oregon Marine Board gets its way. House Bill 2320—introduced this legislative session at the request of Gov. Kate Brown on behalf of the Marine Board—would require persons using a nonmotorized craft—including inner tubes, air mattresses and pool toys, in a river or stream, to wear a life jacket or face a $30 fine. If the bill passes, Oregon would join New Mexico as the only other state that would require all users, even those 18 and older, to wear a life jacket while floating a river, according to Ashley Massey, legislative coordinator and public information officer for the Oregon State Marine Board.
If it passes, the bill would also make several other changes. It would create a nonmotorized boating program, which would be funded by fees of $4 for one week, $12 annually or $20 for a biennial permit collected from users of canoes, kayaks and other nonmotorized boats. The board's members claim the board needs the additional funds for facilities development, to improve access and for law enforcement services in high-use counties, in light of the exponential increase in nonmotorized use over the last decade.
The Board states that they are targeting nonmotorized craft because, "inner tubes, air mattresses, and pool toys are not designed for use on rivers and can't maneuver away from dangers, puncture easily, and can quickly be swept away if the operator falls out." The Board also claims that they are targeting nonmotorized craft users because, 'more than half of annual boating fatalities now involve nonmotorized boats."
Statistics, according to Marine Board figures, show that the increase in nonmotorized craft users has also led to an increase in the number of overall deaths, with three nonmotorized deaths in 2014, six in 2015 and nine in 2016.
The bill is met with some opposition, however. Oregon State Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) remarked on his Facebook page: "...Governor Brown wants to tax & regulate anyone using inner tubes and paddle boards on any river or stream in Oregon. That leaves me with one question: Where do the regulations end? This over-regulation and government intrusion into our recreational activities threatens a unique quality of life that makes Central Oregon and our state so special." Buehler has even created an online petition on his website for those who disagree with the bill.
The bill had its first reading on Jan. 9 and a public hearing on March 3. Currently there aren't any other scheduled events for this bill. Those wishing to follow the status of this bill or get involved can go to the Oregon Legislative Information website at olis.leg.state.or.us, which will inform people on the bills scheduled events, measure history and the committee, (and committee members) that the bill is currently in.
Chris Frye is a teacher of history and the former mayor of Sisters.