A bill under consideration at the Oregon capitol would allow police to arrest drivers who refuse to stop at a boat inspection checkpoint.
State law requires vehicles hauling boats to pull into an inspection station if it’s open. The law applies to motorized and non-motorized boats of any size. The state operates six of the checkpoints, mostly during the summer. They're located along major highway entry points to the state, including Interstate 5 in southern Oregon and Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon.
They’re meant to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species to Oregon waterways, some of which could cause untold damage to native species along with marine infrastructure.
The Oregon State Marine Board says more than 28,000 boats were inspected under the program last year. Of those, the board says 384 were found to have aquatic invasive species, including mussels, snails and vegetation.
The agency estimates about one in five drivers hauling a boat skips the inspection stop. Police monitor the checkpoints for scofflaws, and last year issued 89 citations and 133 warnings. But once the motorist passes the checkpoint, police can't make them return, even if they're pulled over by law enforcement.
“Let’s just take an extreme example," said Marine Board director Larry Warren. "Law enforcement sees invasive species hanging off your boat, and they really want you to go back to that check station. There’s nothing that allows them to do that.”
House Bill 2076 would give the police the right to tell drivers to turn around and return to the checkpoint, as long as they're within five miles. Some lawmakers on the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources suggested they'd be in favor of removing the mileage limitation, or at least making it larger.
Police could arrest drivers who refuse to take their boat back and get it inspected. The recalcitrant boaters could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.