Access the Pacific Northwest Coast Ecoregional Assessment
The Nature Conservancy's Oregon Chapter
The Ocean and Coast
The State of Oregon has 1,410 miles of coastline and owns over 600,000 acres of tidally influenced submerged and submersible lands.
Marine Conservation Agreements
In 2005-2006, The Nature Conservancy undertook formal law, policy, and spatial data analyses related to Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) in Oregon (for the full reports, see the Resources Box). The Conservancy did not find existing private conservation leasing or ownership efforts in the state, but did find existing private in-water conservation projects which lend themselves to future conservation leasing. Several important additional findings were made through the assessments:
- Oregon is constitutionally and statutorily mandated to manage submersible and submerged lands and the associated natural resources for the public’s benefit;
- Public, federal, and tribal rights (such as navigation, recreation, commerce, fishing, and hunting) are usually maintained on submersible and submerged lands, which may impede or complicate private conservation projects;
- Acquisition of privately-owned submersible and submerged lands for conservation purposes is possible;
- Leasing of publicly-owned submersible and submerged lands via the waterway lease and shellfish aquaculture lease is possible, with the waterway lease being the most readily adaptable for conservation purposes; and
- The newly published Pacific Northwest Coast Ecoregional Assessment should be used to develop a comprehensive approach, which utilizes acquisition and leasing, for the long-term conservation of submersible and submerged lands and associated marine resources.
The primary issue that surfaced during the analysis was the precedent setting nature of using private acquisition and leasing on submersible and submerged lands for conservation purposes. While no prohibitions in law or policy were discovered, conservation acquisition and leasing has not historically been undertaken in Oregon's coastal and ocean environment and thus runs contrary to popular thinking. However, state agency personnel were willing to work with private conservationists to determine the best authorization mechanism for projects.
Submerged Lands and Submersible Lands
By Oregon law, submerged lands are defined as those lands lying below the line of ordinary low water, while submersible lands lie between low water and high water. The state owns the majority of land lying below the high water mark extending to the territorial sea boundary, but private ownership of submerged and submersible lands within estuaries and bays is common (at approximately 32%).
The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) manages all state-owned lands, wetlands, and waterways in Oregon, including submersible and submerged lands. DSL has an active leasing program for such uses as marinas, wharves, docks, floating homes, log rafts, ship repair facilities, hotels, restaurants, and other tourist facilities constructed on or over submersible and submerged lands. It also grants easements for utilities and transportation infrastructure. Revenues from leasing state lands go to the Common School Fund. It is important to note that Oregon law (ORS 780-040) gives leasing preference rights to the owner of adjacent uplands before other potential lessees.
DSL requires a permit for removal and fill operations in state-owned waterways, and a permit and lease for the subtidal harvesting of seaweed exceeding 2000 lbs/year. However, commercial seaweed harvesting leases are not given at this time and may be prohibited in the future. Any seaweed harvest less than 2000 lbs/yr does not require a permit.
Oregon Department of State Lands
Waterway Leasing - Land and Waterway Management
775 Summer St. NE
Salem, OR 97301-1279
Coastal Zone and Shoreline Development
The Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) in the Department of Land Conservation and Development coordinates local governments with state and federal agencies to ensure that coastal hazard and development regulations are met. Every city and county on the coast of Oregon has a specific land use plan, and permitting for shoreline development is often through these local governments. OCMP also administers the Coastal Non-point Pollution Control and coastal stormwater programs.
Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development
Oregon Coastal Management Program
635 Capitol St. NE
Suite 150 Salem 97301-2540
While coordinated with the Oregon Coastal Management Program (above), water quality issues are also managed through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. MCA projects that may directly or indirectly affect water quality should contact the Water Quality Division.
Fish and Wildlife
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) is the primary manager of fisheries and wildlife resources for Oregon’s coastal zone. Entities wishing to undertake activities that may impact fish or wildlife and their habitat will need to gain permits through the DFW. The DFW’s Fish Division, Marine Resources Program handles commercial and recreational marine fisheries, including sampling, monitoring, research and management.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Marine Resources Program - Fish Division
2040 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport, OR 97365
Tel:(541) 867-4741 or (541) 867-0300
Shellfish plat leasing is overseen by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Division. There are numerous shellfish plat leases given in Oregon, primarily in estuaries. These leases are often perpetual, transferable, and require harvest of shellfish.
In the state of Oregon, all ocean beaches (defined as the land from the vegetation line, survey line, or line of established vegetation whichever is most landward to high water mark of the Pacific Ocean) are considered public lands. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), Ocean Shores Program, administers ocean beaches as a state recreation area and requires permits for activities and structures on ocean beaches.