North Idahoans are known for cherishing the majestic mountains, sparkling lakes and other natural splendors that surround them. They’re a lot less fond of government, with its man-made regulations and fees.
Sometimes, though, you can’t protect the former without accepting the latter.
That’s the reasoning behind the watercraft inspection stations that will begin operating throughout the region next week to make sure all boats, motorized or not, bear invasive species stickers.
It’s that or stand by and let those beloved waters be converted into aquatic trash heaps by uninvited free-riders that hop from lake to lake by attaching themselves to convenient hulls. The main culprits are quagga and zebra mussels, whose ancestors hitchhiked across the Atlantic on tankers a quarter-century ago and immediately went to work destroying aquatic habitats, not to mention fouling beaches and choking the intake pipes of power plants and water utilities, causing millions of dollars in damage.
How do you get rid of the dime-size miscreants?
You don’t. Once established, they reproduce prodigiously, and they can survive out of water for weeks, plenty of time for a trailer ride.
The best strategy is a pre-emptive strike – you stop them before they get started – and the most effective agents are boaters themselves. All watercraft owners should be on the alert every time they launch or leave the water. Thorough inspections should be routine, followed by rigorous removal of interlopers.
But not all boat owners have the patience or determination to be so diligent. Which is why the state of Idaho now imposes an invasive species fee – from $7 to $22, depending on the size of the craft and the residence of the owner – and performs inspections. And has the authority to impose fines.
The state began developing a program for dealing with this threat five years ago, involving several state agencies in hopes of avoiding turf conflicts. A year ago, the Legislature approved the annual fees that now generate revenue to help pay for administration and enforcement. Local agencies have been charged with performing boat inspections.
Ultimately, however, hopes of averting what could be a disastrous invasion lie mainly with boaters who have a personal stake in the program’s success.