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Posts tagged: boating

Guv takes on feds over Lake Lowell recreation

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, on behalf of the State of Idaho, has submitted comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with the state's “strong opposition” to the proposed new management plan for the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, which would restrict some longtime recreational uses, from powerboating to kitesailing. “Although it is now a wildlife refuge, wildlife and recreation have co-existed with irrigation throughout the life of the Deer Flat project,” Otter wrote. “In fact, irrigation was the original purpose of Lake Lowell. As a Bureau of Reclamation project, preservation of wildlife habitat is secondary to the water rights owned by irrigators.”

There's more. Otter asserts that state law supersedes wildlife habitat at the refuge, though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says the purpose of a national wildlife refuge is “to serve as a refuge and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife.” As is his wont, Otter directly takes on the federal government. “Make no mistake: The responsibility and jurisdiction to manage fish and resident wildlife belong to the State of Idaho,” he writes. You can read his full letter here, which includes this comment, “If the current use of the manmade reservoir, which includes a multitude of recreation activities, has produced such a high-quality wildlife refuge, then it makes sense for those activities to continue.”

Attached to Otter's letter, at the same link, is a five-page detailed comment from the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, which isn't as confrontational, says Fish & Game “anticipate(s) a cooperative working relationship with Refuge staff in managing fish and wildlife,” and calls for much more restricted no-wake zones, developing additional fishing access at Gott's Point and other areas, and addresses hunting and other issues. Also attached is a two-page formal comment from Idaho State Parks & Rec, backing continuing current management strategies and calling for much more limited no-wake zones. “Restricting boating access would severely impact Canyon County boaters,” the state parks department wrote.

Idaho congressional delegation wants more time for Lake Lowell comments

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — All four members of Idaho's congressional delegation are asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend the public comment period for a conservation plan that could put new restrictions on Lake Lowell. The public comment period is scheduled to expire July 29, but The Idaho Statesman reports the delegation sent a letter this week asking for a 120-day extension. Canyon County officials, boaters and others are worried about the planning process, which they expect will put new restrictions on activities around the man-made lake and surrounding Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. But refuge managers say the changes would help safeguard wildlife while still allowing public access. The proposed plan would limit motorized water sports and bicycles, impose access and boat-launch fees and bar dogs and horses from the refuge.

Crapo sets public meeting Saturday on boating, recreation on Lake Lowell

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo has called a meeting at Lake Lowell on Saturday on the future of boating and other recreation at the lake, a national wildlife refuge. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is in the process of creating a new comprehensive management plan that could threaten some traditional uses, including power boating. “Recreation is a vital part of our lifestyle and our economy, as well as a historical use of Lake Lowell,” Crapo said.  “I am encouraged by the strong response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s call for public comment, but the comment period for the new management plan is scheduled to close in mid-September.  Now is the time for recreationalists and residents to weigh in and let our elected leaders, as well as the Service, know their feelings about the future use of Lake Lowell.”

The meeting will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the west end of Lake Lowell, at Lower Dam, south of Nampa. Crapo noted local irrigators helped create Lake Lowell, which is fed by canals supplying water to local agricultural users and property owners.  Irrigators, recreational groups and elected officials will all be in attendance for the lake meeting.  County commissioners, members of the Idaho House and Senate, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Officials, boaters and recreational interests and businesses will attend.

Idaho boaters won’t need two separate stickers for their boats this year

When Idaho boaters register their boats for the next boating season, they’ll no longer have to purchase a separate invasive species sticker – it’ll all be combined into a single registration sticker. “It saves a tremendous amount of money,” said Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, adding, “That’s what the public wanted, too – they didn’t want another sticker on their boat.” Owners of boats registered out of state or non-motorized boats still will have to purchase the separate invasive species sticker, which raises money for the state’s efforts to keep invasive quagga and zebra mussels and other dangerous critters out of the state’s waterways. But for Idaho-registered boats, the invasive species program will be included within the regular boat registration process, and boaters will receive notice before the first of the year.

Anderson said this year sales of the invasive species stickers raised about $750,000, but the state had hoped to collect $1 million from registered boaters alone. Tying the process into boat registration should improve that, he said. “Next year, we will be much more successful on having the money up-front.” You can read more here in my column from Sunday’s paper.

Anderson: Success so far on quaggas

Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, says Idaho’s efforts to keep invasive quagga and zebra mussels from getting into the state’s waterways appear to be succeeding. “We were very successful this year,” he  told the Legislature’s interim committee on energy, environment and technology. “We seem to have avoided any contact with these critters in our waterways this year.” Seventeen sites were set up statewide to inspect boats coming into the state, and Idaho required boaters to buy a special sticker to fund the anti-mussel efforts. “It’s absolutely paramount that we stay diligent - we’re going to have to do more,” Anderson said. “We have been successful - this is like trying to prevent a terrorist act. Professionals out there feel that we have really dodged a bullet.”

One boat that was chased through three states actually was launched in the Spokane River, Anderson said, but extensive monitoring followed and no contamination was found. “I was concerned because I just live downriver, just downstream from that,” said Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene. He said the launch took place at Blackwell Island. Anderson and officials said the boat turned out to have been out of the water long enough before its Idaho launch for any invasive critters on it to have died.

That’s the sticker…

Swung by the Idaho parks & rec office and purchased my invasive species sticker, which I then plastered onto my sailboard. Now we’ll see if it sticks. They were plenty busy, but it was a breeze picking up the $5 sticker (for non-motorized craft; Idaho-registered boats are $10, those registered elsewhere are $20). There was no wait. Phones were ringing off the hook, and parks workers were advising folks that if they order their stickers on the Internet and keep their receipts, they can show those to the cops over the holiday weekend and they won’t get a ticket, even if they haven’t gotten their stickers yet. Here’s a link to the full info about Idaho’s new boat-sticker program to raise money to fight invasive species, including keeping fast-spreading quagga and zebra mussels out of the state.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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