Transient boaters cited for trespassing must leave by Jan. 1

Loophole allows transient boats to stay

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Transient boaters, anchored illegally on the Willamette River, are getting a break from the state.

Settlement agreements just signed between the Department of State Lands and seven of the transient boaters who were given trespass notices, means no fines for trespassing and boaters will have until January to move their boats at least five miles.

It's a tough situation. These boats are homes for over a dozen people currently out on the water who are one step up from being on the streets. It's Portland's housing and homeless problem. But many agree, this is a messy solution. Many of the boats don't have working motors, and some are leaking oil and sewage into the river.

Dane Brown has spent three years aboard his old, wooden boat. He's diagnosed bipolar, with PTSD, and has early stages of renal failure and diabetes.

"I live on $733 a month. My SSI check, over half of it goes to prescription medication," Brown said.

He's lived in shelters, but all of the people and rules make him anxious. He says an apartment isn't an option either.

"I can't pass a criminal background check so no one will rent to me."

The boat gives him space and safety. But he's been docked for months at Willamette Park's public boat ramp. Portland Parks and Recreation operates the boat ramp and Brown says they haven't hassled him because this is the offseason and few people are using the docks.

Before, he was out in the Willamette waterway illegally anchored. The Dept. of State Lands rule says you can do that for a month, then you must move five nautical miles, and not come back for a year.

Brown said if he received a trespass notice, he couldn't comply if he wanted to.

"My first concern would be how could I afford the fuel to start the motors and how would I get the fuel down here? I don't walk very well. I'd have to have help," he said.

KGW was there this summer as the state handed out 13 trespass notices to longtime illegal transient boaters. One day before their requested hearings with an administrative judge, the state reached legal settlements with six of them and are letting them off the hook. The state only making them promise to move their boats by Jan. 1. If not, then they'll pay the fine of $100 dollars a day, going back to the summer.

More: Transient boats receive trespass notices

Besides one ticketed boater who is awaiting a hearing decision from a judge, the rest of the boaters complied with the notice and moved their boats. However, some got around that order to move by just docking at public or private marinas until they're kicked out, if ever.

Or they're tucking in closer to Ross Island. It's private property and out of the state's jurisdiction. KGW left a message for Ross Island Sand and Gravel asking whether or not the company would go after the boaters, kicking them out of their private waterway, but we never heard back.

"I think if you give them an inch, they'll take a nautical mile," said David Valentine who runs the Willamette Sailing Club.

It's across the water from Ross Island where most of the transient boaters have anchored. He's caught a few of the boaters trespassing and stealing, but mostly, they keep to themselves. He doesn't like this precedent the state is setting.

"Everyone is held to a certain standard, and I think there are certain exceptions granted to that particular community," Valentine said.

Lori Warner-Dickason of the Dept. of State Lands tells KGW, in light of this, they've just changed the rules about transient boaters in Oregon.

Starting Jan. 1, the state is getting rid of the 30-day timelines and moving 5 miles rule. They've learned now that it's nearly impossible for them to monitor and enforce. Instead, living aboard your boat full-time without authorization or a lease, will no longer be tolerated. The state will instead first issue a trespass notice, and if nothing is done, they'll start seizing boats.

KGW


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