Port reverses controversial permit decision

Commissioners will allow marina users to purchase annual permits in 2022

In response to pleas from several marina users, Port of Camas-Washougal commissioners have voted to reinstate a popular permit program that offers an annual permit for people who regularly use the launch ramp at the Parker’s Landing Marina in Washougal.

A group of marina users – including members of a nonprofit group that takes veterans fishing on the Columbia River – appealed to Port commissioners in January, telling them that paying a daily launch-ramp fee instead of being able to purchase the annual permit would greatly increase their costs.

On Feb. 2, the Port commissioners said they had taken the marina users’ concerns to heart.

“We got some really great feedback. It was so constructive,” Port Commissioner Cassi Marshall said during a virtual Feb. 2 meeting. “It was a really great example of how the public process is supposed to work. We needed to give additional input and information to the community, and the community had some information to give back to us, but they did so really constructively. There were a lot of solution-oriented suggestions, and it was a good conversation of pointing out what people did and didn’t like about it and also trying to explain staff rationale for making the proposal. I’m appreciative of that.”

The commissioners had voted to eliminate the annual permits during their June 16, 2021, virtual meeting, forcing boaters to pay a $7 daily fee to launch their vessels from the marina’s ramps.

This month, the commissioners agreed to bring the annual launch-ramp permit back for 2022 with a slight price increase. Instead of costing $50 for the general public and $35 for seniors and veterans, the 2022 permits will cost $75 for the general public and $50 for seniors and veterans.

“We’re trying to cover our excess expenses, which are growing faster than our revenues,” said the Port’s executive director, David Ripp, on Feb. 2. “We’re going to look at ways of improving. I think for now, and even next year, we’ll continue with the annual pass, but if we can find ways of improving it and making it easier, that’s the direction that we’ll recommend to the commission this June. We’ll continue our discussion and see what happens. Moving forward, we’re going to do a better job of communicating and improving our communication updates when we’re looking at the marina.”

Washougal resident Keith Hyde, a member of The Fallen Outdoors, a nonprofit organization that facilitates outdoor trips for veterans and active-duty military members, and the Columbia River Chapter of Northwest Steelheaders, a group of anglers dedicated to the conservation of steelhead and salmon and advocating for public access, expressed appreciation for the reversal.

“Obviously, this has been an eye-opening and ear-opening dilemma for a lot of us,” Hyde told the Port commissioners during the Feb. 2 meeting. “I think a lot of us learned a lot from this. … That being said, I’m ecstatic that you have recommended that we go back (to annual permits) and I’m ecstatic that you’re recommending that we could stay with some kind of annual fees or annual pass for next year. I can live with a modest increase.”

Washougal resident Harry Barber told the commissioners he believes the cost increase seems excessive. But the commissioners said the majority of residents who spoke up about the issue seemed to support increasing the annual permit fees.

“I heard from a lot of people who said that since we haven’t had a price increase on these annual permits in a significant number of years, that they were OK with the increase if they could get the convenience of the permit,” Marshall said. “I think some of that is what the staff was trying to address with this recommendation. The price hasn’t gone up for these permits in quite some time. I do appreciate (Barber’s) comment that this is kind of a big (increase), but it’s also a little bit of a makeup for not having any increases for several years and trying to meet needs and keeping the convenience of the permits going.”

Port commissioners will vote on marina fees for 2023 in June.

“To be clear, we’re going to reinstate and increase the rates by a fair chunk for now and we’ll be reevaluating the whole thing for next year (in June),” Port Commissioner John Spencer said. “I don’t know what the change will be, but there will probably be more changes.”