Boat registration is back

The Idaho House of Representatives recently passed a bill to combat invasive species in our waterways. A noble goal. Now if only our representatives were a bit brighter and wrote bills that would help ACHIEVE the stated goal! House Bill 213 is designed to generate funds to combat invasive species. How is it going to accomplish this goal? I have no idea. But every year it’ll cost $20/boat for every out of state motorized boat, $10/boat for every in-state motorized boat, and $5 for every nonmotorized boat.

Their goal will have one “benefit” – boaters will be discouraged from entering our state. This will reduce the spread of invasive species. It will also reduce the flow of tourist dollars to our state. It makes sense to charge motorized boat operators – they have a high risk of bringing invasive species like the quagga mussel in to our lakes on boat trailers or in bilge water. It makes absolutely no sense to charge nonmotorized boaters. We have a much lower risk of importing invasive species. We don’t carry water in our boats (at least, not if we can avoid it!), and don’t use boat trailers. And yet, we’re still stuck paying for it.

It’s been suggested the money will be used to provide washing stations for boats (although the bill doesn’t say this). I see a lot of problems with this. Boat washing is practically impossible to enforce. Are we going to have an officer stationed at every lake to make sure boats are washed before being put into the water? Those who would actually use them are the same people who are already being careful about spreading invasive species. Those who are likely to bring them to our lakes are likely to ignore the washing stations anyway.

All of this aside, why are kayakers and rafters stuck paying for this too? I can guarantee there won’t be a kayak washing station up on the Payette. My kayak will never be near one, and has zero risk of bringing invasive species to Idaho. Yet I’m still going to be out $5 every year. Since this will be impossible to enforce, I plan on ignoring the registration. I suspect I’ll have a lot of company in that decision.

We do still have time to stop this bill! Every boat owner in Idaho, whether motorized or not, should call their state senator! It hasn’t passed the senate, although it will be up for vote very soon. Even if you’re out of state, think about giving a call or writing a letter to a member of the Idaho legislature. This will impact you too if you ever want to boat in Idaho.


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