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Oregon Prepares for Aquatic Invaders with Rapid Response Exercise (Photo) - 05/22/20

On May 19 and 20, a Rapid Response Team of local, state and federal natural resource agencies, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, convened for a virtual tabletop, scenario-based exercise in the event invasive quagga or zebra mussels are found in the Columbia River Basin.

The practice scenario involved a boat launching into Lake Billy Chinook after coming to the lake from mussel-infested Lake Pleasant, Arizona. In the scenario, the out-of-state boat launched and moored in a marina on the lake for 10 hours before the invasive mussels were detected. The exercise included monitoring and containment options ranging from facility closures, law enforcement assistance, and mandatory boat inspection/decontamination for boats leaving the waterbody.  

The Rapid Response Team activated a mock command center and rapid response for containment and explored the best mitigation options for the conditions.  There were several goals in conducting this proactive exercise: streamlining communication among action agencies, strengthening skills, improving response time and coordinating mussel containment actions.

Representatives from the Oregon State Marine Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Portland General Electric, Invasive Species Action Network and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, participated in the exercise.

“Oregon needs to practice a rapid response plan and act fast," said Glenn Dolphin, the Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator for the Oregon State Marine Board. “The question isn’t if the mussels contaminate the basin, but when.” Dolphin continued, “We need to have everything dialed in, including technology and communication, to the point where the group is a well-tuned machine with leadership and procedures in place, so everyone knows what role they play.”     

The Rapid Response Team took lessons-learned from neighboring states and the measures they’ve implemented to improve response through policy and planning during previous exercises.

“These types of exercises help reveal areas that might be missing or that might need to be strengthened in Oregon’s Rapid Response plan in order to be successful in an eradication effort. This is why it is important to have exercises and to work with various partners. Their expertise on the species and knowledge of the area is very valuable to successful eradication efforts,” says Rick Boatner, Invasive Species, Wildlife Integrity Supervisor for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “If you miss your window of opportunity for whatever reason, the mussels will take over an entire ecosystem and now you are dealing with containment and control, which is far more expensive and drastically increases the chance that the mussel will expand into more areas around the state,” adds Boatner.

“We are proud to be a part of this multi-agency, long-term, and proactive approach to invasive species prevention in the Columbia River Basin,” said Dr. Theresa Thom, Regional Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Our successes and lessons learned are being used to inform other rapid response efforts across the nation.”

Mandatory boat inspection stations in Oregon are the first line of defense, but most are only open seasonally during daytime hours, with Ashland and Ontario stations open year-round. Recreational boaters can help protect waterways with three simple steps: Clean, Drain, Dry their boat after every use. In 2020, all boaters are also now required to “pull the plug” and empty any water-holding compartments when leaving a waterbody and during transit. 

The Marine Board and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife co-manage Oregon’s Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program. Non-motorized boats 10 feet long and longer are required to purchase and carry a Waterway Access Permit and non-resident motorboat owners must purchase an out-of-state aquatic invasive species permit (AIS).

A portion of the Waterway Access Permit, all of the out-of-state AIS permit fees, as well as a portion of Oregon’s motorized boat registration fees help fund the program. The revenue pays for aquatic invasive species inspection stations, decontamination equipment, staffing, law enforcement, and outreach materials. 

For more information about aquatic invasive species permits and to purchase a permit, visit: https://myodfw.com/articles/waterway-access-and-aquatic-invasive-species-permits.

Learn more about aquatic invaders and see boat inspection reports at: https://www.oregon.gov/osmb/boater-info/Pages/Aquatic-Invasive-Species-Program.aspx.

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Play it safe where there are mixed-use waterways.
Play it safe where there are mixed-use waterways.
Sharing the Waterways When Boating Improving Safety, Reducing Conflict Begins with You (Photo) - 05/21/20

The Oregon State Marine Board offers a different message this year heading into Memorial Day Weekend, and it’s not just about safety. It’s about courteous behavior and recognizing that everyone on the water impacts each other.

Apply the “Golden Rule” and Understand Boating Needs of Others for Safety:

  • Wherever paddlers are, motorized boat operators need to pay special attention to their speed, wake, and proximity to others. Let the paddler know you see them by changing course, speed, or using sound signaling.
  • Paddlers are encouraged to stick together in your party (maintain a distance of 6 feet from others) and venture out into deeper or wider waterways ONLY when skill level and safety allow.
  • Like any road with a crosswalk, paddlers are encouraged to cross river channels at 90-degree angles and make sure they have enough time to paddle across the waterbody safely and not impede motorboat traffic flow.
  • When a motorboat operates “on plane,” at a faster speed, the boat may actually produce a smaller wake than at lower speeds. On shallow rivers, motorboats must remain on plane or risk grounding. Paddlers should keep their ears primed for the sound of a motorboat approaching and give way. Motorboat operators should be ready to steer clear or alter speed and signal to the other boaters that they are seen.

All boaters can do their part:

  • It’s every boater’s responsibility to learn and follow the navigation “rules of the road.”
  • Be mindful and conscious of your activity’s impact on others. At the boating facility, avoid congregating at the ramp or docks. Be efficient in launching and retrieving your boat.
  • Be a good neighbor and look out for one another. If you see another boater in need, stop and render aid if you’re safely able to do so and stay on-scene until everyone is safe. Not only is this a courteous thing to do, but it’s also the law.
  • Know your limits. Where there are a lot of people recreating, evaluate your skill level with the other activities, and gauge whether or not to do your activity in that location. Evaluate the level of risk due to COVID-19. Find a local area boat ramp to access the water. If it’s crowded, try again another day when it's less busy. If you’re new to boating, you may want to find a different waterbody nearby to hone your boating skills before venturing out into more densely populated waterways. Go with a more experienced friend or paddling club. This applies to both motorized boaters and paddlers.
  • “See something, say something.” If someone is operating recklessly, take note of the make, model, and if possible, the boat’s OR number and file an electronic report. The Marine Board can follow up with a notice to Marine Law Enforcement.
  • If you’re involved in a boating accident that involves an injury or property damage exceeding $2,000, you must report the incident to the Marine Board. A Boating Incident Report Form must be submitted within 48 hours of an injury or death and within 10 days of an accident causing property or equipment damage only.

Boating Safety for Memorial Day Weekend:

  • Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. New innovative styles provide mobility and flexibility during water activities.
  • Check equipment. Make sure you have and know how to use all the essential safety equipment.
  • Make a float plan. Let family and friends know where you’re going and when you will return.
  • Use an engine cutoff device. An engine cutoff device is a proven safety device to stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
  • Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during your excursion.
  • Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of nationally reported boating accidents in 2018 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
  • Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Familiarize yourself with local boating proximity rules and slow -no wake zones and always travel at a safe speed. See the regulations here.
  • Never boat under the influence. A BUII is involved in one-third of nationwide recreational boating fatalities. This includes alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, and inhalants.
  • Keep in touch. Cell phones, satellite phones, EPIRB or personal locator beacon, and VHF radios can all be important devices in an emergency.
  • Please follow COVID-19 guidelines for boating access sites (boat ramps, boarding docks, parking areas, etc.).

All boaters need to operate in a safe manner, be courteous to other users, share the water, and Take Care Out There.

For more resources, visit www.boatoregon.com.

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Marine Board Seeks Written Public Comment on Petitions Relating to Paddlers - 05/20/20

The Oregon State Marine Board is soliciting written public comments on two citizen petitions received by the agency.

The first citizen petition was received on May 4, 2020, regarding paddlecraft and personal floatation device administrative rules.  The petitioner is asking the Marine Board to amend its current rules regarding personal floatation devices (PFDs) to require that all persons on paddlecraft wear PFDs during the periods before June 1 and after September 15. An electronic copy of the petition can be found here: https://www.oregon.gov/osmb/info/Documents/Rulemaking/PaddlePFDPetition.pdf

The second citizen petition was received on May 14, 2020, regarding administrative rules related to the Waterway Access Permit.  Petitioners are requesting that the Marine Board amend its current rules so that the Waterway Access Permit expires one year from the date of purchase (as opposed to the end of the calendar year) for annual permits, and two years from the date of purchase for two-year permits. An electronic copy of the petition can be found here: https://www.oregon.gov/osmb/info/Documents/Rulemaking/CitizenPetition_WaterwayAccessPermit.pdf.

Written comment will be accepted until June 28, 2020, by 11:59 pm. Comment can be submitted by email to .rulemaking@oregon.gov">mailto:osmb.rulemaking@oregon.gov, fax at (503) 378-4597 or by U.S. Mail to Jennifer Cooper, Administrative Rules Coordinator, Oregon State Marine Board, 435 Commercial Street NE, Salem, OR 97301. Testimony will not be accepted by telephone and comments must be received prior to the closure time/date to be considered.  

Rulemaking and Public Notices are available on the agency’s website at https://www.oregon.gov/OSMB/info/Pages/Rulemaking-and-Public-Notices.aspx.

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New regulatory zones for the Newberg Pool of the Willamette River beginning July 1, 2020
New regulatory zones for the Newberg Pool of the Willamette River beginning July 1, 2020
Marine Board Approves New Rules for Newberg Pool, Other Items (Photo) - 05/14/20

The Oregon State Marine Board approved new rules for the Newberg Pool on the Willamette River in addition to other rule updates during their virtual quarterly Board meeting on May 13.

The Board reviewed a proposal by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and the Human Access Project for repurposing the Kevin Duckworth Memorial Dock into a mixed-use community gathering place to help people connect to the river. Fifty feet of the dock will continue to allow for temporary motorized tie-up, with other areas designated for fishing, swimming and paddling access. The City of Portland also plans to install ladders during the summer months. Representatives from PBOT will update the Board at their October meeting. 

In an informational item, agency staff proposed a future work session with the Board to explore a mechanism that would allow the use of electric motors by boaters with disabilities on designated waterbodies. This concept was first proposed in a petition received from a citizen to allow electric motors on North and South Twin Lakes. After accepting the petition in at their January, 2020 meeting, the Board directed staff to explore options to increase opportunities for boaters with disabilities. The Board agreed to a work session on this topic during their July meeting.

The Board approved three housekeeping rule updates to reflect changes to fire extinguisher and life jackets labels, in addition to adjusting notification requirements for Outfitter and Guides for CPR/First aid certifications. Agency staff will conduct random audits verifying current CPR/First Aid compliance for Outfitter and Guides and their staff. The Board also approved proposed rules for implementing the Waterway Access Grant Program and associated scoring criteria with some modifications.

Regarding the ongoing evaluation of rules in the Newberg Pool on the Willamette River, the Board denied a citizen petition to amend the current rules due to an existing publicly noticed rulemaking process. Soon afterward, the Board approved proposed rules for the Newberg Pool, which expanded regulations on wake surfing and wakeboarding to additional stretches of the river.

Areas in which wake surfing and wakeboarding are allowed are the following:

Zone 1, river miles 46-47.6, in which wake surfing and waterskiing is allowed but other towed watersports are prohibited;
Zone 2, river miles 31.8-33.2, in which wake surfing is allowed but all other towed watersports are prohibited.

These new zones will go into effect on July 1, 2020.

The Towed Watersport Endorsement requirement for those wake surfing and wakeboarding on the Newberg Pool is still required for all operators of watercraft engaged in those activities.

In the final agenda item, staff discussed with the Board a variety of rulemaking options to address concerns on the lower Willamette River in the Portland-Metro area. This conversation focused on roughly three miles of the 26-mile section of Lower Willamette River for future rulemaking concepts. The Board provided staff direction for refining a rule concept, vetting proposed language through the Lower Willamette River Rule Advisory Committee and asked for an update at their July meeting. At that time, the Board will likely direct staff to draft proposed rules and file them with the Secretary of State’s Office, with an extended public comment period. Any new rules for the lower Willamette River would not go into effect until 2021.

The agency Board book can be found at https://www.oregon.gov/osmb/info/Documents/Board-Meetings/May13BoardBook_2020.pdf.

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Paddling Fatalities Trending Up: Preparation and Practice are Key (Photo) - 05/07/20

There have been five boating fatalities on Oregon’s waterways during COVID-19 this spring, all have two things in common: not wearing life jackets, and cold water. The Oregon State Marine Board is urging boaters headed to the water during the first warm weekend of the year - especially people in canoes, kayaks, and on stand-up paddleboards, to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. The water is cold.

"We are concerned," said Randy Henry, Boating Safety Program Manager for the Marine Board. "People are anxious to get out and have fun, but water is serious business. If you go boating, wear your life jacket, buckle it up, and make sure it’s a snug fit. Always dress appropriately, and if you're paddling, dress for the water. A dunking this time of year can be deadly."

The breakdown of the five boating fatalities: four of the five were not wearing life jackets. The other is unknown. Four of the victims were male and one female. Three were recreating in paddlecraft (kayaks and a canoe) and two were in motorboats. All of the victims fell overboard unexpectedly into cold water, which is trending unlike what the Marine Board has seen in past years.

This season, many people new to paddling or people who haven’t paddled in a while are strongly encouraged to take a free, online Paddling Course to learn about self-rescue, how to re-board your paddlecraft, important equipment/requirements and other safety skills to develop. Start out on calm, flat water, and slowly progress to other waterbodies as skills develop. There are also paddling clubs in many communities as well as online forums with local safety information.

Additionally, the agency has received many reports of debris and obstructions this spring, so all paddlers and motorboaters should be especially cautious, keeping a sharp lookout on all waterways and starting out slow. Visit the agency’s waterway obstruction page to learn where obstructions have been reported and recommendations on how to avoid them. Many obstructions cannot be immediately cleared.

The open/closed status of boating access changes frequently. The agency’s interactive Boat Oregon Map is a resource for finding facility contact information to help boaters with their planning and preparation. Remember to respect any closures, stay local, be self-contained, boat with members of your immediate household, and maintain physical distance for your own safety and for those around you.

For more Paddle Smart boating safety tips from the Marine Board and the U.S. Coast Guard, visit https://www.oregon.gov/osmb/info/Documents/News-Releases/Media%20Kit/PaddleSmart.pdf.

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