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Multnomah County Sheriff's Office says many people 'are choosing this lifestyle.'

KOIN 6 NEWS PHOTO - Tents and barges are piling up on the shore of the Columbia River along Marine Drive. Neighbors say they're frustrated as dozens of tents, barges and dilapidated boats continue to take over parts of North Marine Drive along the Columbia River, KOIN 6 News reports.

Don Larson has called the waters in the area his home for the past 11 years. But his once-peaceful backyard waterway started attracting unwelcome guests in recent years.

"About a month and a half ago, there were about 45 to 50 people living in tents on this private property illegally," Larson said Thursday.

Tents, barges and submerged boats now line the shoreline and river on North Marine Drive just east of Terminal 6.

Larson said he's called multiple agencies for years but the camps continue to grow.

"I think it is unacceptable and I'm not sure why we are allowing it to continue," Larson said. "I think the damage to the environment is one. Two, we are all going to pay for this in the end and it could've been avoided if they enforced our current laws."

The mix of private and public land complicate matters. The Port of Portland, Marine Board, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and the Oregon Department of State Lands are all responsible for finding a solution.

Sgt. Stephen Dangler with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office talked to KOIN 6 News about what authorities are doing to fix the problem.

"We are taking a holistic approach to see what are some policies to put in place to deal with this, what kind of contractual relationships need to be in place with either law enforcement or contractors for cleaning up an area."

Cleanup costs are not cheap. They can range anywhere between $500 to $80,000 for just one boat. According to MCSO River Patrol, there are currently around 150 illegal boats on the water in the county.

"That is difficult for any agency to absorb, so again, working collaboratively with different agencies is going to help benefit everybody."

River Patrol regularly seizes abandoned boats but say those living there aren't always homeless.

"We are not dealing with our homeless or houseless population per se," said Dangler. "People are finding alternative ways of living and a lot of folks are choosing this lifestyle."

KOIN 6 News is a media partner of the Portland Tribune.


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