TOM JAMES , Associated Press
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — From Oregon's wine country to Crater Lake to the Portland Trailblazers, it can seem like there's a special license plate for everything — but Oregonians will soon have one more to choose from.
Oregon State University, home to a whale research program, has gathered enough would-be purchasers to launch a new license plate design featuring a grey whale and calf on an ocean-themed background.
A lighthouse will also be featured on the corner of the plates, along with the words "coastal playground" printed across the bottom, for drivers who are willing to pay an extra $40.
The university's Marine Mammal Institute said in a Thursday release that that they had pre-sold 3,000 of the plates, the threshold for having a new custom-background license plate made available. The design should become available in early 2019, according to the release.
The whale plates are set to be launched under an Oregon program, running since 2015, which allows any nonprofit group or college or university to launch a custom background just by gathering enough vouchers — essentially early applications to buy the new plate — and paying about $68,000 in fees.
The state currently prints 21 other custom designs, along with special plates for some veterans, ham radio operators, classic car owners and other groups.
But custom designs aren't permanent: With the exception of designs enshrined in legislation, like the state's Crater Lake plate, each has to entice at least 2,000 new buyers every year to avoid automatic cancellation.
"That has happened to a lot of them," said David House, a spokesman for the Department of Motor Vehicles, adding that at one point the state had more than 30 available. "Ninety percent of people just want regular plates."
A previous effort by the university to launch a whale plate — and make it permanent via legislation — failed in 2013.