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Idaho House backs $20 boat fee

BOISE - The House has voted 63-5 in favor of legislation to combat invasive quagga and zebra mussels by imposing a fee on all boats launched in Idaho, motorized and non-motorized alike.

The cost for the annual sticker would be $10 for boats registered in Idaho, $20 for those registered elsewhere, and $5 for non-motorized boats, which aren’t registered. The only exclusion would be for inflatables less than 10 feet long.

The House’s overwhelming passage of HB 213 gives the bill a strong push as it moves to the Senate to consideration.

Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, gave the only opposing debate in the House, saying, “I know I’m gonna be the skunk in the garden this morning.” Clark objected to the bill’s emergency clause, the fact that the money would go into a fund subject to appropriation rather than a dedicated fund, and the idea of leaving details to rule-making. He noted that the bill itself just collects the fee; it doesn’t set up wash stations at boat ramps or even mention the invasive mussels.

“Why not do this at the ports of entry before they come in here?” Clark asked. “This is like washing your hands after you eat.”

Several backers of the bill, however, countered that some Idaho lakes cross state lines and no ports of entry are available to intercept boats there.

Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, sponsor of the bill, said if the mussels get into Idaho waterways - and they’re already just miles away in Utah - it’ll cost the state more than $94 million a year to cope with the mess.

Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, the House agriculture chairman, said the preventive action is warranted for the insidious mussels. “Other invasive species, once they get here you have a chance to fight them, but once the quagga mussel gets here you’ve already lost the fight,” Trail told the House.

House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, said boats are what carry the mussels into the waterways. “This is a user fee based on those people that come to the state of Idaho and also those people that use the bodies of water,” he said. “I think it’s an appropriate piece of legislation.”

Clark was the only North Idaho representative to vote against the bill.

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