Thousands of boaters would face new aquatic invasive species rules under a Ronan lawmaker’s bill.
Under current state regulations, boats at high risk of carrying invasive zebra and quagga mussels must be decontaminated with hot water.
House Bill 608, introduced by Rep. Joe Read, R-Ronan, would require all vessels with ballast tanks or bladders to receive a decontamination upon entering the state or the Columbia River Basin.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks would be required to charge a $50 fee for these decontaminations; private contractors could charge a fee reflecting their costs. Boaters could skip the process if they prove they had not been launched for at least 30 days.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks estimates 2,000 vessels would be subject to decontamination and the fee each year. Boats with large ballast tanks, Read explained, "can carry a tremendous amount of water with them, even when their tanks are pumped out, and it makes a perfect habitat for invasive species."
Tom Woolf, aquatic invasive species bureau chief for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, agreed. “Boats that have ballast tanks and bladders cannot be adequately inspected like other boats,” he said, speaking in support of the bill. “They cannot be adequately dried due to their contained nature.”
Representatives from Trout Unlimited and the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana, also backed the bill. It had no opponents.
Other environmental agencies, including Lake Tahoe Boat Inspections, already charge for boat inspections. But the $50 fee raised concerns for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
“We would rather not have the inspectors handling cash or taking other forms of payments,” said Eileen Ryce, the agency's fisheries division administrator.