Oregon set to require small-watercraft permits

$17 a year for paddleboarding and kayaking

Permits required for water activities in Oregon

BEND, Ore. - Summer is here, and for Central Oregon, that means many people are taking advantage of the water for a wide variety of fun.

Activities including tubing, paddleboarding and kayaking are heavily utilized. Last year, about 250,000 Deschutes River users floated between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

But some changes are afoot.

The Oregon Legislature has voted to enact Senate Bill 47 and require owners of small (over 10 feet), non-motorized boats and watercraft to purchase "waterway access permits," starting in the summer of 2020. The revenue will go to a variety of services, including promoting more responsible recreation on the water.

On the no side of Monday's 36-24 vote was state Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, took to her Facebook page recently to express dismay about the planned permit fees.

“Heartbreaking to see we are taxing access to our beautiful waterways,” she wrote.

Reps. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, and Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, also voted no.

Others also are not happy with the changes. Some residents said Wednesday that if they already own their water equipment, and they should not be taxed to use it. 

"I understand it's getting super popular here," kayaker Michelle Bechtel said. "It does get super-crowded, so maybe that will help with the crowdedness here, but as a local, you just want to enjoy your river."

Other residents said they are skeptical about where the money is going.

"If the money is going to something, then great, that's wonderful. But let's find out where the money is going," said paddleboarder Rick Riley. 

A weekly permit will cost $5, a yearly permit $17, and a two-year permit will cost $30. 

A representative from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe said he believes the money collected from the permit taxes will benefit the waterways. 

"I think we would promote that. The new legislation is designed to provide safer and public access to our waterways," said Topher Robertson, program director, with the company. 

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