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Boat-fee bill advances in Idaho

Tue., March 10, 2009, 3:27 p.m.

BOISE - After a long, packed hearing, the House Environment Committee voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve Rep. Eric Anderson’s quagga mussel bill, which requires every boat owner in the state - motorized or not - to purchase a sticker to help fund boat-washing efforts to keep the invasive shellfish out of Idaho waterways.

There was just one “no” vote on HB 213 in the committee, from Rep. Steve Kren, R-Nampa; the measure now heads to the full House for debate. Anderson, R-Priest Lake, has spent thousands of his own money on literature and props as he tries to convince his fellow lawmakers to pass the bill.

Among those endorsing the bill Tuesday were the Idaho Conservation League and the Western Whitewater Association; among those opposing it were the Idaho Whitewater Association and Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, which contended the cost would unfairly fall on owners of kayaks and rafts that haven’t been proven to be a means of transporting the invasive species. “We believe that there’s a less intrusive way to get after this issue than imposing a tax on our industry, especially at this difficult time,” Grant Simonds, executive director of the Outfitters and Guides Association, told the committee.

But Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, said, “I think the urgency dictates that we need to do something, and we need to get started.”

Vessels registered in Idaho would pay $10 a year; those registered out of state but launching in Idaho would pay $20; and non-motorized vessels, which don’t register, would pay $5 apiece. The only exclusion is for inflatables less than 10 feet long; commercial outfitters with large non-motorized fleets would get a bulk discount.

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