Boat owners may get big hike in milfoil sticker fee

 

The legislature is considering a significant hike in milfoil sticker fees. LD 1626, sponsored by Rep. Mike McClellan of Raymond, would raise the milfoil sticker fee by $7 for Mainers and by $15 for nonresidents. This fee is now incorporated into the boat registration fee and must be paid when boats are registered.

lake_river_sticker_2014The Lakes Environmental Association is a principle proponent of the legislation, and emailed a message today to its supporters urging them to contact legislators to express support for the bill.

“Only a small percentage of sticker revenues currently supports plant control, reported LEA. “Seventeen groups in Maine have programs underway and the most anyone receives from those fees is $5,740 annually. Private groups working to clean state waters contributed over $500,000 in cash and donated time and materials in 2013.

“Bill sponsors and supporters feel this inequity in funding must be addressed if Maine infestations are to be brought under control before they create further damage to the resources, property values and local tax bases. Many infestations are on the threshold of being out of control, so time is a major factor,” noted LEA.

The emailed message from LEA concluded, “Even if your favorite lake is not infested, it is probably close to one that is. Each infested lake threatens every other lake in Maine. Courtesy boat inspections have proven to be a powerful line of defense by intercepting plant fragments, but there has been little help for groups fighting existing infestations. Please take the time to help these programs and protect your lake in the process.”

boatregistration_2012Boat registration fees are required only for boats with motors, and are based on the horsepower of the motor. $10 of the current fee goes to the milfoil program. Here’s a list of the proposed increases for each category:

10 horsepower or less – current fee is $25 – new fee would be $32 for residents and $50 for nonresidents.

Greater than 10 and less than 50 horsepower – current fee is $30 – new fee would be $37 for resident and $55 for nonresidents.

Greater than 50 and less than 115 horsepower – current fee is $36 – new fee would be $43 for residents and $67 for nonresidents.

Over 115 horsepower – current fee is $44 – new fee would be $51 for residents and $76 for nonresidents.

The legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee hosted a public hearing on LD 1626 on January 14 and tentatively scheduled a work session on the bill for February 11.

At the public hearing, testimony in opposition was presented jointly by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. You can read that testimony here.

DIF&W is the agency responsible for all watercraft registration including the lake and river protection stickers.  The agency’s principle criticism of the bill focused on the process.

“Currently both resident and nonresidents registering their boat in Maine pay $10 for the invasive species portion of the watercraft registration. This bill would require nonresidents who register their boat in Maine to pay more than Maine residents for the invasive species portion of the boat registration. This adds an additional layer to the boat registration process for both the license agents as well as the boat registrants because it would require proof of residency when registering a boat. It would also add additional complexity for DIFW in administering the boat registration process.”

DEP, the agency responsible for managing the state’s Invasive Aquatic Species Program, focused its opposition on the bill’s requirement that the agency create new programs to remove invasive plants from the state’s waters.

“The long term management suggested in this bill seems redundant with current practices in DEP’s management program. DEP’s current program already considers much of what is proposed within this bill. The Invasive Aquatic Species Program collaborates with lake associations to address invasive aquatic plant prevention, early detection and control. Local interest and effort is critical for a successful invasive aquatic plant program.”

The agencies did not address the concern that available funding for this program is insufficient to the task.

Of course, anglers have complained for years that there is no similar program for addressing the problems of illegally introduced fish species. I guess dealing with that problem is just too expensive!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.