Key Bills in Salem Affect the Coast
The Environmental Lobby Day for this year’s legislative session, when the state's conservation groups come together to make their voices heard in Salem, has come and gone (it took place March 23).
But the legislatiive session continues, and Oregon Shores is tracking a number of bills that affect the coast. Led by board member Bob Bailey, we have been advocating for some bills and opposing others in testimony to legislative committees. We urge members to contact their legislators to make their voices heard on these key bills.
Senate Bill 745 and House Bill 2506 (identical bills) would create an Ocean Beach Fund. Money would come to the fund from the transient lodging tax paid by campers in coastal state park campgrounds that abut the ocean shore. Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department would use the fund to help support beach debris removal, riprap management, emergency response, safety activities, and the salaries of beach rangers, among other things.
Oregon Shores considers the Beach Fund critical to the long-term protection of Oregon’s beaches. Surfrider Foundation and chief sponsors Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) and Rep. David Gomberg (D-Lincoln City) agree. So do most of the other coastal legislators. The bill has had one hearing (February 27) by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment (Sen. Michael Dembrow D-Portland, chair), where Bob Bailey testified on our behalf, but no votes have been taken and it has not gone to the floor of the Senate.
Despite strong support from coastal legislators who see the need for more resources in coastal state parks in the face of very high visitor use (seven of the top ten state parks in number of visitors in 2016 were on the coast), the bill has a strong opponent. The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association believes that the transient lodging tax from campgrounds along the coast should be used to promote tourism rather than take care of the places that tourists visit. Oregon Shores believes that the Beach Fund is a good way to invest money spent in coastal state parks in the parks and beaches where it is needed.
House Bill 2708 would require the Department of Land Conservation and Development Commission to amend Goal 18, Beaches and Dunes, to “incorporate current bioengineering measures” as permissible means of protecting oceanfront property. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Ken Helm (D-Beaverton). No hearings have been held, but is assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources (Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, Chair).
Oregon Shores is opposed to HB 2708. We oppose amending Goal 18 to allow a special class of untested shorefront protective structures. The goal already allows a variety of protection methods for eligible properties, including alternative methods. Bioengineered structures, a term that is not defined in the bill, appear to be effective in upland and river bank situations but are not at all proven to be effective in ocean front conditions. Oregon Shores is concerned that if allowed specifically under Goal 18, property owners of properties that are otherwise not eligible for riprap, sea walls, or other hard structures would resort to “bioengineering measures” as an alternative and, when the bioengineered measure failed, would plead for permission to use traditional hard structures.
House Bill 3232 was introduced by the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources (Rep. Brian Clem D-Salem, Chair) but apparently drafted at the request of Rep. Sal Esquival, R-Medford.
HB 3232 would prohibit the introduction of a wildlife species into areas in Oregon that are currently outside that species’ range unless the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission determines that introduction is “essential to the continued existence of the wildlife species.” And it requires the Fish and Wildlife Commission, even before approving introduction into the state, to create a plan to contain or isolate the species and to do other things the Commission already does when working with partners to introduce (more accurately, re-introduce) a wildlife species to its former range.
Oregon Shores opposes HB 3232. It would create unwarranted political and administrative barriers to the reintroduction of wildlife species that were once present in Oregon, such as the sea otter and California condor, and thus prevent the restoration of native ecosystems. Oregon Shores testified in opposition to the bill at a hearing March 15 before the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources but also offered detailed ecosystem-based criteria that would be appropriate for the Fish and Wildlife Commission to use when considering a re-introduction of a wildlife species.
HB 3149 is being considered by the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. It was sponsored by coastal representatives David Brock Smith (D-Curry County) and David Gomberg (D-Lincoln City), at the behest of advocates for coastal recreation.
Oregon Shores testified in support this bill, which we hope will hasten the completion of the Oregon Coast Trail. The Oregon coast is, in our view, Oregon’s signature geographic feature. We believe that a completed Oregon Coast Trail, one that is safe and well-maintained, would show off our coast in all her glory and add immeasurably to the Oregon coast mystique. We also believe that it will make a significant contribution to the economy of coastal communities as new generations of coastal visitors seek to experience the coast in very personal ways.
This bill would elevate the status of the Oregon Coast Trail and put it squarely on the “to do” list for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The Action Plan called for in the bill will provide a strong reason for many outside interests to support completion of the trail.
HB 3193, also before the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, pertains to intertidal seaweed harvest. The bill:
- Repeals Department of State Lands leasing requirements for kelp harvesting.
- Requires the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to adopt a permit program by rule for small-scale commercial hand harvests of seaweed from ocean shores and tidal submerged lands (and defines what small-scale harvesting is...and is not).
- Requires ODFW to consult with the Department of State Lands (DSL) and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) before adopting rules.
- Allows ODFW to enter into memorandum of agreement with DSL and OPRD to assign sole responsibility for permitting to ODFW when harvesting of seaweed would occur on ocean shores or over tidal submerged lands.
- Requires ODFW to deposit moneys received from permit fees into a Seaweed Harvest Permit Program Account.
- Continuously appropriates moneys in account to department for purposes of administering permit program.
This bill addresses an issue that has been under the surface for a long time. There appears to have been some undercover commercial harvest going on for years, particularly on the central coast. There were really were no meaningful regulations by ODFW, DSL, or OPRD to deal with intertidal seaweed harvest...commercial or personal use. It has been a worrisome gap. This bill gets rid of the antiquated kelp leasing rules for DSL, including the entire concept of proprietary leasing which is aimed at large-scale commercial harvest of bull kelp in offshore beds but is totally silent on intertidal seaweeds. It gives ODFW, the appropriate habitat-oriented agency, authority to regulate seaweed harvest on the ocean shore and tidal submerged lands (intertidal area and adjacent submerged areas) which plugs a regulatory hole that has been missing. It provides specific parameters to keep any harvest truly small-scale and sustainable (although that word is not used); and it addresses a real-world need, which is to provide some meaningful regulation over a wild food product that is in demand. It limits purposes of harvest to "human consumption," not fertilizers or feedstock for chemical extraction. And it specifically requires ODFW to adopt provisions that would ensure that seaweeds grow and reproduce. It also gives ODFW the authority to specify how someone could harvest for personal, not commercial, use.