Voices

Waterway protection program streamlined

BOISE – 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 nonmotorized 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.”

This year’s efforts, funded in part by $1.6 million in state-issued deficiency warrants, were successful in preventing infestation of Idaho waterways with the fast-spreading mussels that have plagued waterways in the east, Anderson said. The efforts included 17 sites set up statewide to inspect boats coming into the state.

“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.”

Anderson has made fighting the invasive species his No. 1 cause, to the point that over the summer he went to 31 of Idaho’s 44 counties giving presentations on mussel prevention to everything from chambers of commerce to canoe and kayak clubs: “basically anyone that has questions.”

That work, all on Anderson’s own nickel, has taken up most of his time, just as work for his general contracting business has dwindled to near nothing with the downturn. He said he’s eating into his savings, and his wife has gone back to work full time, but he thinks it’s worth it. “It’s why I was hired” as a state lawmaker, he said.

“It’s just an absolute passion of mine to try and see that our waters are protected. I believe if we don’t do more, we are going to lose some waterways in the future, and it’ll be terrible for those communities.”

Little talks re-election

Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little has scheduled his “official announcement tour” to announce his candidacy for re-election, but when I looked at the tour announcement, I only saw “Brad Little for Idaho.” It named his campaign co-chairs, who are the state’s last four lieutenant governors: Gov. Butch Otter, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, Hon. Jack Riggs, and Hon. Mark Ricks. And it noted announcements planned for Oct. 30 in Boise, Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene. But it never said just what office Little would be announcing for.

So I called campaign spokesman Jason Lehosit with the question: What’s Little running for? “That would be lieutenant governor,” he replied.

Energy chief pledges openness

When Paul Kjellander, head of the Idaho Office of Energy Resources, briefed a legislative interim committee last week about the wide-ranging work on options for Idaho’s energy future being done out of his office by the Strategic Energy Alliance – an effort launched by the governor that includes task forces, a board of private industry representatives, and a council that includes state agency heads – Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise, said she had a legal concern.

The work of the alliance, created by an executive order from the governor, is “in a gray area with regard to whether the work is public or private,” she said. That’s why she’s been working with the governor’s office on legislation to codify the entire Idaho Office of Energy Resources, which actually doesn’t exist in state law but also was created by executive order. Writing the agency into state law would give it the Legislature’s blessing as well, she noted, as well as clarifying that everything it does is subject to the state’s open meetings and public records laws.

“In my view, there’s public policy being created by the Office of Energy Resources through the Strategic Energy Alliance, and in my view, the process should be open and transparent,” Kelly said. “The codification would have that value.” Kelly noted that while the governor’s office has worked with her on the legislation, it’s indicated that this year is not the right time to enact it. Asked to explain that, Kjellander told lawmakers, “There will be a time in the near future, I hope.”

He said the “main concern from the state’s perspective, the Office of Energy Resources in cooperation with the governor’s office,” is that the coming legislative session will be a time when consolidating agencies will be under consideration and “even the potential discussion of eliminating some agencies.”

To write Energy Resources into law as a new official state agency at the same time, Kjellander said, “might … just be poor timing.” Kjellander said the executive order that created his office still is in effect, and it can continue operating under it for now. He also pledged to keep its operations “transparent,” saying, “I feel confident that I’ll hear your messages pretty loud. … I think Sen. Kelly communicated her concerns very clearly.”



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