BOISE – A proposal from Idaho’s state parks to charge people who launch nonmotorized boats $7 for a mandatory invasive species sticker next year, up from $5 this year, fell flat in an Idaho legislative committee on Tuesday – but it could come back.
The fee helps pay for programs designed to keep quagga and zebra mussels and other invasive species out of the state’s waterways, a program that state Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, says has been successful. But Anderson said the fees need to be hiked to add in a $1.50 payment to private vendors who sell the stickers for the state.
“This is in my mind a minimal amount of participation from the public,” Anderson said. “This is a protection for the public.”
Other lawmakers objected. “I thought this program was supposed to pay for itself, and a year later we’re already increasing the fees?” asked state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle.
“The biggest complaint I have received about this particular program is from non-motorized vessel owners, not the outfitters and guides – families who have a canoe or a raft,” Labrador said. “They’re not happy about paying $5, and I’m sure they’re not going to be happy about paying $7.”
In the past year, Idaho sold 17,972 $5 stickers to owners of non-motorized boats. It also sold 6,565 $20 stickers to owners of out-of-state motorized boats, and 53,617 $10 stickers to owners of Idaho-registered, motorized boats.
The legislation the Parks Department proposed Tuesday would have raised the fees for out-of-state registrants to $22. It wouldn’t have changed the in-state motorized fee, but would have added $2 to the fees paid by outfitters and guides with fleets of boats.
This year, for Idaho-registered motorized boaters, the invasive species sticker will be combined with boat registration into a single sticker. Officials expect that to improve compliance; last year, of 91,000 in-state registered boats, invasive species stickers were purchased for fewer than two-thirds. Anderson said the registration sticker already includes a vendor fee, so there was no need to add one for motorized Idaho-registered boats.
State Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, called for keeping Idahoans’ fees the same but boosting out-of-state boaters’ fees by a third. But state Rep. Bert Stevenson, R-Rupert, chairman of the House Resources Committee, said a similar move on Fish and Game fees backfired – instead of raising more money, it caused fewer out-of-state hunters to purchase Idaho licenses and tags.
The House State Affairs Committee deadlocked in two tied votes on whether to reject or introduce the bill, so both moves failed. Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said the bill could be proposed again.
The invasive species program set up inspection stations last summer and checked incoming boats for mussels and other invasive critters on their way to Idaho waterways; infested boats can be decontaminated with hot water.
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