Portland man finds himself in middle of state’s crackdown on illegal boaters


A Portland man who claims to have lived on the Willamette River for 15 years has found himself in the middle of a state crackdown on illegal boaters.

Don Fisher, who lives in a 1950s model, 34-foot wooden boat, recently received a notification from the Department of State Lands that he is trespassing.

The State of Oregon owns and manages the land under the water, to which Fisher's floating home is currently anchored.

"There's no reason that boat is considered abandoned, derelict, or a risk. And that's what they stated on their paperwork," said Fisher. "I'm not doing anything wrong except anchoring to the land underneath the water."

Lori Warner-Dickason, Regional Manager for the state's Aquatic Resource Management Program, said she can't speak specifically about Fisher's case, since it's still unresolved, but said living on the river without a place to dock is a violation of state law.

"For someone who wants to live on the water, they need to be in a marina or in a floating home moorage," said Warner-Dickason.

Fisher said he's spoken to local marinas about securing a permanent moorage, but hasn't been able to find a match.

If Fisher doesn't comply with the state's request to find a permanent spot, the state has the authority to seize his boat, which Warner-Dickason admitted isn't an ideal resolution.

"Seizure is very expensive. We have to hire a contractor to seize the boat and store it for 30 days," said Warner-Dickason.

If the owner of the boat appeals, the state is responsible for continued storage, then disposal of the boat if the owner's appeal is rejected.

The department doesn't have a fixed budget for boat seizures, so the money comes out of the Common School Fund.

Each boat can cost tens of thousands of dollars to remove.

Fisher requested a hearing with the Department of State Lands, but the hearings official decided in August the state is clear to go ahead with the seizure of Fisher's boat.

Fisher has until mid-December to file an appeal in court.

Copyright 2017 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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