BOISE - Idaho lawmakers on Wednesday approved a whopping 40.2 percent increase in state funds for the Idaho Department of Agriculture next year, largely because of a big boost to a boat inspection program aimed at preventing invasive quagga and zebra mussels from entering the state.
“The level of funding from the general fund for this effort is historic in nature,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, co-chair of the Legislature’s joint budget committee, which voted unanimously in favor of the plan.
“The joint committee’s action “reflects a sense of urgency,” Keough said. “We have seriously elevated our response to the threat and are taking action to try to protect Idaho’s precious waterways.”
The panel approved a $3.14 million increase in the program, all in state general funds – plus reopened the Idaho State Police budget to add $171,300 in funding for another patrol position. That will cover dawn-to-dusk operations of all inspection stations, including three new ones already approved this year, and shifting one, on Interstate 84 in eastern Idaho, to 24/7 operations. That’s where the new state trooper will be assigned.
Until now, Idaho’s boat inspection program has been funded from invasive sticker fees paid by boaters. Legislation currently is pending to raise the fee for out-of-state motorboats from $22 to $30 a year. That’s expected to bring in an additional $70,000 to $80,000 a year for the program.
The fast-spreading invasive mussels can quickly clog up and destroy water intakes, pipes, irrigation equipment and more. They encrust beaches, drive out competing species and destroy landscapes. The Northwest is the last region of the country still free of the mussels.
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