Portland, Ore. - March 2, 2023 – The Oregon boating community praised the introduction of Senate Bill 1071, sponsored by Sen. Mark Meek (D), Sen. David Brock Smith (R), Rep. Ricki Ruiz (D) and Rep. Lucetta Elmer (R). The bipartisan bill is a crucial step in the right direction to restore reasonable public access to the Newberg Pool - supporting local families and small businesses.
For decades, hundreds of local families have safely enjoyed towed watersports like tubing, waterskiing and wakeboarding in the Willamette River’s Newberg Pool. Last year, the Oregon State Legislature narrowly passed SB 1589, which devastated the local boating community and small businesses that depend on recreational boating. The bill banned the majority of families registered to participate in towed watersports by setting an egregiously low weight limit for boats in the Newberg Pool.
Only 7% of the 70+ boat models available from popular manufacturers fall under the weight limit as defined by SB 1589. With hundreds of families kicked off the river, local small businesses suffered millions in economic losses last summer. Foot traffic is significantly down at popular stores and accessories shops serving boaters, leading to sales declines as high as 50%.
“Since the passage of SB 1589, recreational boating interest has sharply declined in the Newberg Pool,” said Bryan McLean, co-owner of Northwest Boat Sports in Oregon City. “These unnecessary restrictions prevent families from enjoying one of Oregon’s greatest natural resources and substantially reduced interest in recreating in the area. This decline actively harms businesses like ours and directly impacts our ability to provide livable wage jobs.”
The newly-introduced SB 1071 will reasonably increase the weight limit and allow local recreationalists to find qualifying boats – restoring river access vital to communities, small businesses and livable wage jobs. It will also correct a serious overreach by aligning the Newberg Pool’s mile marker with SB 1589’s intended purpose of alleviating congestion in populated areas.
“Thanks to SB 1589 I can’t even take my kids tubing on the river,” said Monie Gaba of Sherwood. “The law banned our boat from watersports in the Newberg Pool, making it so that our kids can’t experience the river our family has enjoyed for years. The upper Willamette was a godsend during the pandemic for our kids’ mental health as well, but now that’s been taken away. The current law isn’t common sense, and Oregon families need reasonable public access to the Newberg Pool. SB 1071 will allow us to get out on the river again and support local small businesses.”
Recreational boating provides significant social and economic benefits across the state. Oregon recreational boaters support $1.6 billion in economic impact, nearly 6,000 jobs and over 400 local businesses. Oregonians spend more than 6.8 million activity days per year on the water participating in watersports and cruising. Passage of SB 1071 is critical to ensure that Oregonians have access to much-loved watersports activities.
Oregon Families for Boating encourages concerned citizens to sign its petition to support SB 1071 and the restoration of sensible boating legislation. For more information and to sign the petition, visit https://www.oregonfamiliesforboating.org/actnow.