Bill proposes fee increase to finance invasive species fight
Two area DFL legislators are introducing legislation aimed at preventing the spread of invasive species in Minnesota waters. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, and Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, would increase fees for boat licenses and for non-resident fishing licenses.
Ward said the bill would generate $4 million per year in new revenue for the invasive species program. The Associated Press reported that if the bill became law it would raise total funding for the invasive species program to $7.8 million per year.
The Brainerd lawmaker said increased boat inspections and education would help with early detection and rapid response in fighting invasive species. It would double the current number of hours dedicated to enforcement, he said.
Species that would be targeted include Eurasian milfoil, Asian carp, water fleas and zebra mussels, according to Ward.
To pay for the increased enforcement the bill would hike boat license fees by $5 for canoes; $15 for boats under 17 feet long; and $20 for all other watercraft. In addition
Ward said the bill would raise the three-year non-resident license by $3. He thinks the bill will garner enough Republican support to pass in the GOP-controlled House and Senate and noted that the program is a part of Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget.
“This isn’t a Democratic issue, a Republican issue, an independent issue ... This is a Minnesota issue,” he said. “You can look at the increased funding fees but I like to look at it as in investment in our tourism industry ..It is also an investment in our natural resources.”
Saxhaug, whose district stretches from the state’s Northwest Angle to Aitkin County, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.