March 17, 2009 in Idaho

House approves statewide boat fee

Program would raise cash for mussel fight
Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

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

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

The House’s passage of HB 213 on a 63-5 vote Monday gives the bill a strong push as it moves to the Senate for consideration.

Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, was the only House member to debate against the bill, saying, “I know I’m gonna be the skunk in the garden this morning.”

Clark objected to various technical details in the bill, including the fact that it contains an emergency clause and lacks a dedicated fund.

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 noted that some Idaho lakes cross state lines and that no ports of entry are available to intercept boats there.

Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, the bill’s sponsor, said that if the mussels get into Idaho waterways – they’re already just miles away in Utah – it would 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 the legislation was appropriate.

“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.

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

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com.


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