Idah Gov. Otter wants to expand waterway fees


BOISE – Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter says boat owners who have to register their vessels are being unfairly singled out to bear the state’s boat-related costs, and he wants to discuss extending the burden to others, such as kayakers, canoeists, rafters and even windsurfers.

John Miller – Associated Press Idaho Statesman – 3/30/2007
Those boaters now don’t pay such state fees, which are used to pay for rescue operations, parking, water access and boating facilities maintenance. One immediately panned Otter’s idea, saying similar proposals in Idaho have gotten nowhere as recently as 2004 due to fierce opposition.
Otter made the announcement Thursday, accompanying a new law that raises registration fees on sailboats and motorboats. The measure, which takes effect July 1, raises registration fees to $20 per year for craft up to 12 feet long.
The same $20 base fee will apply to larger boats, also up from $13, with a $2 surcharge for each additional foot.
The governor said he plans to assemble a committee of watercraft users to discuss changes. It will be made up of all potential stakeholders, said Otter spokesman Mark Warbis, adding the panel could include everyone from windsurfers to rafters who now don’t fall under registration requirements.
“My office will work with the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation and user groups to identify a more fair and equitable way of addressing such recreational watercraft costs as facilities maintenance, rescue operations, rules compliance, parking and access,” Otter wrote.
“While the financial responsibility for active management has fallen most directly on motorized watercraft users who avail themselves of our state facilities, all recreational watercraft users have a role to play in ensuring that our state’s waterways receive the care they need for generations to come.”
Much of the fees goes to counties to cover their boating-related costs.
Nearly 86,000 boats registered in Idaho in 2006, according to the state Parks and Recreation Department.
The agency estimates there are more than 100,000 non-motorized boaters in Idaho.
Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, sponsored the legislation to raise the fees, arguing they hadn’t been adjusted since 1994 – even as the cost of providing services and facilities had risen significantly.
Still, non-motorized boat users such as canoeists, kayakers and rafters say they already shoulder much of the burden for their sports, such as in the form of parking fees along the Payette River that go to the U.S. Forest Service, as well as a $5 per person fee for boaters who float world-famous rapids on the Salmon, Snake and Selway rivers.
Stan Kolby, an owner of Idaho River Sports in Boise, said he’s seen similar efforts before. Under a bill proposed by the Kootenai County sheriff’s department in 2004, every canoe, kayak and raft over 7 feet long in the state would have had to register for a $13 fee.
At the time, whitewater enthusiasts beat back the effort, saying it would add to red tape and was unfair to owners of multiple boats, such as kayak and raft rental operations, that could face thousands of dollars in increased costs from their stables of vessels.
“There will be huge opposition to this,” Kolby said, arguing kayakers and rafters account for few state-funded rescues. “Within two or three days, there were about 100,000 e-mails sent to our senators and representatives voicing their opinions that they don’t want to pay.”
Across the U.S., the organization American Whitewater has successfully lobbied state legislatures – including Connecticut, Maine, Montana and Oregon – to kill similar legislation, according to the group’s Web site.

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