Coeur d’Alene Press
March 23, 2010
SPOKANE VALLEY – There’s a whole lot of tweaking going on for the upcoming second year of Idaho’s boat inspection program aimed at keeping out invasive species.
Mandatory stickers that fund the program will now be handled through the boat registration process instead of separately, a move that’s expected to boost revenue from $800,000 to $1.3 million and increase inspection rates, said Kate Wilson, program coordinator for the Pend Oreille Basin Commission.
“Last year was complicated and not all boaters purchased a sticker,” Wilson said.
Wilson was the keynote speaker during Monday’s Spokane River Forum Conference attended by about 175 at the Centerplace Regional Events Center in Spokane Valley.
The stickers, which cost $10 for in-state motorized boat owners, $20 for those out of state and $5 for non-motorized boats, are required at mandatory inspections for all boaters.
The inspection stations will be open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, likely from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Wilson said a station for the Cataldo area is being sought this year. Established stations are on eastbound Interstate 90 at Huetter, Farragut and Heyburn state parks, Lake Cocollala, Oldtown, Athol and Sandpoint.
Senate Bill 1344, which has passed the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee and is being considered by the House, adds teeth to enforcing the program. It authorizes any peace officer, including police and conservation officials, to respond to violations and clarifies who can take action.
“Inspectors would see boaters breeze by (stations) a lot,” Wilson said.
Also different this year will be that local groups such as conservation districts will man as many of the stations as possible rather than one contractor being in charge of the inspections.
“We’re moving toward local management of the stations,” Wilson said. “We believe this will lead to better response and better buy-in.”
It will also help budget-strapped conservation districts, she said.
Out-of-state boaters, especially those who have been in waters invested with zebra or quagga mussels and other threats, are the biggest targets.
There were 18,000 boat inspections statewide last year. Three vessels – all at North Idaho stations – were quarantined after mussels were found. Wilson said the economic impact on Idaho – if mussels are established – would be about $100 million a year.
“They’re coming here and we need to be on guard,” Wilson said. “It’s a never-ending battle once they get here.”