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Some members of the community have voiced concern about a lack of social distancing at marinas.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Signs posted at the Scappoose Bay Marine Park remind users to follow guidelines and take precautions to reduce the risk of viral transmission.

Out on the water, six feet of distance from other boaters is nothing new.

While some boat ramps around the state have shut down, the Scappoose Bay Marine Park is still open.

"We have very few places where people can get out onto the river, and there's no better way to do social distancing than to get in your boat," noted Larry Ericksen, a commissioner for the Port of Columbia County, which operates the marine park. "Boaters are really, really good at staying away from each other."

Some members of the community have voiced concern about a lack of social distancing at marinas since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Oregon two months ago.

"During my several phone calls with the other ports (in the state), what I will tell you is that a lot of folks closed their boat ramps, and I will tell you, it has caused an uproar in those communities," said Doug Hayes, the port district's executive director, at a commission meeting in early April.

Hayes said this week that the port still has not observed many issues at the boat ramp, but a post on the Port of Columbia County's official Facebook page on April 14 implied at least some patrons' behavior wasn't adequate.

"Without better cooperation and participation from recreational users, the Port may have to close both Bayport RV Park and Scappoose Bay Marina," the post warned.

Commissioners agreed with Hayes' recommendation to "maintain it, continue to put eyeballs on it, continue to enforce the social distancing."

"I think it provides an avenue of continued normalcy in some aspects for folks," Hayes said.

Hayes said the port has had two staff members at the marina during peak hours to monitor patrons.

Some facilities have closed some launch lanes and parking spaces to create enough distance between customers, which means facilities may fill up faster than usual, the Oregon State Marine Board warned.

Once they've set sail, boaters aren't at as much risk — at least from COVID-19 — though the usual safety risks on the water still apply.

While at the boat launch, getting ready to depart or packing up after a day on the water, patrons are more likely to come in contact with surfaces that other patrons have also used. The state marine board recommends washing hands or using hand sanitizer after touching gates, fuel pumps or other high-touch surfaces.

The marine board released a list of recommendations for boating during COVID-19 on Tuesday, April 28.

Families or roommates who live in the same household can continue to boat together, the board said. And for paddlers, the marine board always recommends traveling in groups. But during the pandemic, paddlers should maintain a six-foot distance from their companion if they don't live together.

The marine board recommends exploring waterways close to home and bringing supplies along to avoid having to make additional stops.

Marine law enforcement officers "are actively patrolling looking for compliance with existing laws," the board advised.

On April 8, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife extended the closure of recreational salmon and steelhead fishing along the Columbia River. The state had closed Columbia River spring salmon and steelhead seasons on March 25, in response to similar closures from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced earlier this week that his state will allow fishing to resume in some areas on May 5.


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