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Committee approves fee hike for invasive species program

Committee approves fee hike for invasive species program

Dustin Hurst
February 24, 2010
Dustin Hurst
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February 24, 2010

The House Resources and Conservation Committee wants the public to know it's serious about the fight to keep invasive species out of Idaho's lakes and waterways.

The panel voted Tuesday to approve a fee hike for the sticker program, which will allow more vendors across the state to carry the stickers.  Currently, in-state owners of motorized or sail-operated water vessels are required to purchase a sticker at a cost of $10, while out-of-state boaters pay $20.  Citizens who own non-motorized vessels, such as canoes, kayaks, or large rafts, pay $5 for their stickers.  With the potential changes to the program, the fee for in-state stickers would remain the same, while the charges assessed to out-of-state boaters and non-motorized boaters would increase by $2. (View the state’s registration forms here.)

The state has taken in more than $1 million to fund the program, which provides education for boaters about the dangers of invasive species, as well as funding for boat inspection stations at various locations throughout the state.

Proponents of the plan say the fee is necessary because it will enable vendors to be paid for their work involved in stickers.  The invasive species program was implemented in 2009 in quick fashion prior to boating season.  Because the state didn't have ample time to work out agreements with vendors, many agreed to sell the stickers without reaping any benefits from doing so, said Dave Ricks, representing the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.  Ricks said the process for selling the sticker can be time-consuming for vendors, who collect money as well as boat registration information at the time of the transaction.  Once that is accomplished, vendors must turn all the funds and information over to the state, said Ricks.

Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, a staunch advocate for the invasive species program in the Legislature, said the fee hike will enable the state to save on costs.  Anderson noted that other states fighting the same battle average 25 full-time employees within state government to handle their sticker programs, while Idaho has one to do the same work.  He added that the partnership between government and private business will aid in the distribution process and will allow boaters to access the stickers at more outlets.

Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, objected to the fee hike, saying the department lacked an effective business plan for the program.  He expressed concern that the department might return to the Legislature during the next session to request another fee hike if a suitable implementation plan for the stickers is not constructed by the department.

"Until we can get that put together, we will be continuously band-aiding this," said Hagedorn.

Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur D'Alene, said the state cannot wait for a perfect plan for the program.  He said the Lake Coeur D'Alene is "incredibly important" to the state in terms of recreation and industry, and that the fee hike would help protect that resource.

"We need to push ahead with the progress that has been made," said Sayler.

Hagedorn tried to kill the bill by holding it in committee, but that move failed on a 5-11 vote.  Lawmakers then voted to pass the fee hike and send it to the House floor.

(Note: The invasive species sticker program fee hike wasn’t the only effort by lawmakers to fund state programs by charging more for certain services.  The House State Affairs committee voted Tuesday to raise fees on death certificates; read about it here.)

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