BOISE — Idaho would remove the requirement for $7 annual invasive species stickers on paddleboards, canoes and other small non-motorized craft, while sharply increasing fees for motorized boats from out of state, under new legislation introduced Thursday in a House committee.

Rep. Doug Okuniewicz, R-Hayden, proposed the bill to the House Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, which agreed to introduce it. That clears the way for a possible full hearing.

Okuniewicz said his aim with the bill is to keep the funding for the invasive species program at the same level, while shifting the burden. Non-motorized craft still would have to be inspected at invasive species inspection stations funded by the program along major Idaho routes, he said.

“This bill removes the fee for paddleboards and canoes alike for both residents and non-residents, in large part because those types of vessels are highly unlikely to transmit the species,” Okuniewicz told the committee, adding, “It’s kind of a pain.”

Currently, the annual stickers cost $7 for in-state and $30 for out-of-state residents purchasing them for small non-motorized craft like paddleboards or canoes.

Okuniewicz’s proposal also would cut in half the fee for an invasive species sticker for a motorized boat registered by an Idaho resident, currently $10; while more than doubling fees for out-of-staters, and increasing fees for out-of-state motorized boats that have ballast tanks, which can trap invasive species like quagga and zebra mussels.

Those tanks, he said, “provide opportunities for invasive species to be sucked into a vessel. They’re harder to inspect, harder to clean. If you have one of those, then there’ll be an additional charge.”

An out-of-state boater with that type of motorized boat, under the bill, would be charged $155. “It’ll help get them to have a more proportionate participation in funding this program,” Okuniewicz said.

Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, asked Okuniewicz if he’d checked with former state Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, now chairman of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, who spearheaded the invasive species program that thus far has kept destructive, invasive quagga or zebra mussels from infiltrating Idaho waterways.

Okuniewicz said he spoke with Anderson, and also with officials from the state departments of Agriculture and Parks. “I don’t want to speak for Mr. Anderson,” Okuniewicz told the committee. “He cares a lot about this program and I think he had some concerns. … He wanted to be sure that we weren’t reducing funding.”

“This is a light-touch kind of deal,” Okuniewicz said. “We’re trying to keep the program whole.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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