Friday, October 21, 2011

Oregon's Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program

ODFW boat inspectors

In January 2010, Oregon launched an Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program(AISPP) as a result of House Bill 2220, which passed during the 2009 legislative session. The Oregon Marine Board and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spearhead the program with help from law enforcement agencies and OregonInvasive Species Council member organizations.

The goal—protect Oregon’s environment against the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Essentially, we promote “Clean, Drain, and Dry” and conduct boat inspection stations. Invasive species can hitch a ride on boats (both motorized and non-motorized) and other recreational equipment that come into contact with water. This equipment can then move AIS to new water bodies and across state lines. In the past three years, Oregon joined the ranks of states hosting boat inspection stations, including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Utah, Colorado, and California. 

Who is paying to protect Oregon from AIS? The program is funded entirely by the sale of AIS boat permits (also started in 2010). Motorboats pay $5 towards the program when they renew their biennial registration, non-motorized boats pay $5 for an annual permit to carry on the boat, and non-resident motorboats must purchase an annual $20 permit.

Setting up the inspection station
During 2010, Oregon boat inspectors conducted inspections at boat ramps and roadways (at major highway rest areas). The good news is that dirty boats with attached AIS were cleaned on-site with a portable hot water (up to 140o F—the temperature needed to kill the dreaded zebra or quagga mussels) pressure washer unit. The bad news—these boat inspection stations were voluntary, and boats could drive by the stations without stopping. During 2010, only about 1 in 3 boaters stopped at the stations.

We needed help from our legislators to deal with lack of compliance, and we got it. During the 2011 legislative session, legislators passed House Bill 3399, which requires boaters to stop at inspection stations. Violators can be fined $142. To introduce the new law, AIS program partners hosted an inspection station law enforcement day on September 2 at the Port of Entry commercial truck weigh station in Ashland. Orange and white signs and a large digital reader board gave motorists ample notification that the inspection station was ahead. By the end of the day, a total of 47 boats were encountered. Here’s some interesting stats:

  •         20 boats stopped for inspection, but 27 did not (about a 43% compliance rate)
  •          43 boats were found to be clean, and 4 boats had attached aquatic vegetation
  •          We stopped 24 motorboats, 7 personal watercrafts (jet skis), and 16 non-motorized boats.
  •          Boat owners were from six different western states

All but two of the passing boats that didn’t stop were pulled over by State Police troopers—all received warnings for not stopping. An inspector rode with the troopers to perform a quick roadside inspection on boats that hadn’t stopped. All of the motorists that were stopped were very apologetic and provided many excuses for not stopping, including:
·         “I didn’t see the signs”
·         “I have driven by before and never got stopped”
·         “I thought the inspections were only for Californians”
·         “I saw the signs but didn’t know where to stop”
·         “I didn’t think having to stop applied to me”
·         and lastly—and my personal favorite—a retired couple on vacation stated, “I forgot that I put the canoe on top of the truck this morning”

The boat inspection stations are now closed around the state and will re-open next year by Memorial Day weekend. I hope more people comply next year. Permit compliance went up in year two of the program, and over time, more of the boating public will become aware of the requirements. 

Highway sign
“Clean, Drain and Dry” your boat is the message, and when you see that bright orange sign on the highway that says boat inspection ahead, make sure you pull in, or you might find yourself looking in the rearview mirror with red and blue lights flashing at you.

Glenn Dolphin
Oregon Marine Board – AIS Coordinator 


  1. Thanks for the update, Glenn. Hopefully the compliance rate will improve as more people become familiar with the program. I like that last excuse. Speaking for myself, I have never forgotten I have a canoe on my car, but I guess it could happen!

  2. It truly is easy to forget you have something "up top". Over my lifetime, my father, who expects perfection from others as well as himself, (I'll need to post as anonymous now :) has THREE TIMES forgotten a bike was on a top rack, and tried to pull under an obstruction - a fast food drive in, and our garage - each time causing damage to the building, his bike, or the vehicle. I've driven off with coffee mugs on the roof...just set it there for a sec, and forget it.