Legal Action Taken to Repeal Lower Willamette River Regulations

April 28, 2021 – Members of Oregon Families for Boating have taken legal action to repeal overreaching regulations on the Lower Willamette River, set to go into effect on May 1, 2021. We have filed petitions with the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) to ensure boating opportunities are available for all Oregonians. Those filings allege that the Lower Willamette rules, and the lack of transparency in which they were enacted, violate several state laws. Our goal of this legal action is to make Oregon’s waterways safe and accessible for all by paving the way for more sensible regulations.

Earlier this year, the OSMB voted to enact sweeping regulations on the Lower Willamette River that significantly impact the motorized boating community. These amendments ban wakesurfing and heavily restrict all towed sports, including tubing, skiing and wakeboarding on almost 13 miles of the Willamette River from downtown Portland to Willamette Falls.

We’ve filed a petition with the OSMB, requesting that the regulations be repealed immediately on the following grounds:

  • The OSMB’s final decision to adopt the rules violates Oregon law, requiring meetings of a governing body to be open to the public. During a public meeting held on January 27, 2021, the OSMB initially voted not to adopt the rules, determining that further consideration of alternatives was needed. Then the Board took a break. It appears that members of the OSMB met in private and deliberated during that break, off the public record. Off-record comments from third parties may have influenced these deliberations as well. When the Board reconvened, it moved to reconsider the decision and then voted again – this time to adopt the rules. Any private deliberation of the OSMB members would be unlawful, which makes the vote improper and the final decision invalid.

  • The Lower Willamette rules violate the OSMB’s existing policy directive, which requires the agency to resolve problems by using management measures including education, information, signing, voluntary restrictions or increased enforcement of existing laws before acting to restrict public use and enjoyment of boats. The OSMB has not attempted to resolve the perceived problems on the river with management measures, and this failure violates its directive.

  • The OSMB is required to seek recommendations of affected local jurisdictions and authorities before adopting regulations for local waterways. Although the City of Portland initially supported the rules, it withdrew support after it came to light that the safety rationale had been over-stated and was inconsistent with recommendations from public safety agencies. The OSMB failed to consider the City’s revised position when it voted to adopt the regulations. The OSMB also failed to seek any input from other affected municipalities, including the City of Milwaukie.

  • The OSMB is required to limit any significant adverse effect on small businesses. The record clearly suggests that the purposes of the rules could have been be achieved in a manner that is substantially less intrusive and costly to small businesses. The agency’s failure to consider that approach violated its duty to consider and adopt alternatives that would be less impactful for local businesses.

Upon receipt of the petition, the OSMB will be required to re-open public comment on the regulations, including whether options exist for achieving the rule’s goals in a way that reduces negative economic impact on businesses.

We’ve also petitioned to the Oregon Court of Appeals, asking the court to find the regulations invalid because the rules exceed OSMB’s statutory authority and were adopted in violation of the applicable rulemaking procedures.

The complete petitions can be viewed here. Please be aware these petitions will not prevent the new regulations from going into effect on May 1, 2021. Boaters should continue to follow local rules. To stay up to date about the progress of these petitions, including the opportunity to provide public comment, follow Oregon Families for Boating on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Stop Legislation to End Towed Water Sports

May 5, 2021 – Our collective voice is being heard and we can’t quit now with just six weeks to go in the session. Two of the five bills (HB 2555 and HB 2725) that would have banned hundreds of families from tubing, skiing and wake surfing on the Willamette River have been defeated! We can't thank the boating community enough for your tireless support – emailing letters, calling legislators, signing petitions and showing up at public hearings to testify against this harmful legislation. That's why we need your continued support to stop this legislation in its tracks.

Here is the work we have underway and how your donation will help stop efforts to ban recreational boating:

Upper Willamette River (SB 857): This is a duplicate of HB 2555 and HB 2725, which seeks to ban boats that weigh over 4,000 pounds from pulling tubers, skiers and wake surfers on the Upper Willamette River. Even though the House already extensively debated this bill and did not move forward, it has been revived by a "special bills" loophole. We are working tirelessly to keep the bill from being considered in the Senate.

Oregon State Marine Board Membership (HB 2695 / SB 856): Put forth by special interest groups, the purpose of this bill is to reconfigure the Board membership. This legislation passed the House and is dangerously close to working its way through the Senate. We're advocating to stop the politicizing of the Board now. A duplicate bill was also introduced in the Senate as an insurance plan to keep this bad idea alive.

In addition to the legislative efforts, we've taken legal action to repeal overreaching regulations on the Lower Willamette River that went into effect on May 1. See below for more about our petitions to the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon State Marine Board to ensure boating opportunities are available for all Oregonians.

All donations support political advocacy and community organizing efforts to stop harmful legislation that seeks to destroy Oregon's boating community. To donate to the PAC, click here. The PAC qualifies for the Oregon Political Tax Credit, a $50 per person tax credit on most Oregonians' personal income taxes. In other words, the vast majority of all Oregonians can give $50 per year to ORBU and get all the money back on their taxes. For joint filers, the tax credit is $100.

To stay up to date about the latest boating news follow Oregon Families for Boating on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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