Proposed Beach Fund will provide State Parks with more resources to manage increasing beach us.  Photo by Sonja Peterson.

Proposed Beach Fund will provide State Parks with more resources to manage increasing beach use. Photo by Sonja Peterson.

As a means of honoring the 50th anniversary of the Oregon Beach Bill, Oregon Shores supports passage of Senate Bill 745, which establishes a Beach Fund that will enable better management of our public shoreline.  Submitted by coastal Sen. Arnie Roblan at the request of our colleagues with Surfrider, the bill has already emerge from the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee with a “do-pass” recommendation, and is now before the Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue.

Breaking news:  We have learned that the committee will hold a hearing on the bill on Wednesday, May 3, 8:30 a.m. in Room HR A.  The committee members are Sens. Mark Hass, Brian Boquist, Alan DeBoer, Chuck Riley, and Kathleen Taylor.  Whether or not you can attend in person, if you are in the district of one of those senators, you can be particularly influential by contacting them in support of the bill before the hearing.

SB 745 diverts .6% of money generated by the transient room tax, the portion collected from campers in ocean-front state parks, an estimated total of $125,000 per year, to a new Ocean Beach Fund created by the bill.  Visitors to the coast spend about $1.8 annually, supporting the coastal economy, and it is Oregon’s public shoreline which is the primary lure.  Thus there are strong pragmatic reasons for protecting our beaches and rocky shores, in addition to the underlying stewardship responsibility for this public legacy which is Oregon Shores’ key mission.

Despite the value of our shoreline resources, preserved for all Oregonians and visitors through the Beach Bill (which became the Beach Law), the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), charged with managing the shore, is short of the funding and staff needed to adequately carry out these responsibilities.  OPRD needs additional support to address issues of marine debris, proposals for altering the shoreline through riprap and other types of beachfront armoring, visitor safety, vandalism and other violations of beach regulations, and an increasing range of recreational uses, some of which have potential risks and environmental impacts.  All this, while erosion and severe storms driven by climate change are actively re-shaping the coast where millions of residents and visitors are seeking recreation.

In hopes of addressing degradation that could affect both visitor experiences and environmental health, Oregon Shores joins with Surfrider and other conservation groups, along with Lincoln County and many commercial interests on the coast, in calling for the establishment of the Ocean Beach Fund, as a modest means of helping to preserve our beaches for the next 50 years.  We work frequently with OPRD staff to clean up debris and monitor the shoreline for problems, so we are in a position to testify that the department needs more resources for shoreline management.

OPRD currently operates about 19 coastal campgrounds that collect state lodging taxes for overnight stays in tents and yurts. The revenue generated from these taxes is distributed quarterly to the State of Oregon’s Tourism Commission / Travel Oregon for state tourism-related programs. The Beach Fund legislation would retain these dollars for beach management, to be used where the funds are generated. Because the funds are directly generated, “point source,” at state-managed ocean shore campgrounds, and the legislation would not apply to the local lodging taxes, the fund would not infringe upon tax revenue generated and depended upon locally by the private sector.

Rather than disappear as a drop in the bucket of statewide tourism funding, funds going to the Ocean Beach Fund could provide vital extra capacity for OPRD, to spent possibly on additional beach rangers patrolling the shoreline, or on other types of clean-up, enforcement, and public education programs.

Oregon Shores urges members to contact their legislators and voice support for SB 745.