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Bill to fight invasive species scraps boat decals for fishing license increases, bicycle fee

Friday, March 31st, 2017

TOM KUGLIN Mar 30, 2017 Updated 15 hrs ago LINK

HELENA — A bill to fund Montana’s fight against aquatic invasive species now includes increases to the price of fishing licenses and a new fee for out-of-state bicycles, but drops decals for motorized watercraft.

Senate Bill 363 aims to generate $11 million over the next two years to double the number of watercraft inspection stations, check all out-of-state boats and implement mandatory decontamination at Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs, two of the state’s most popular. Mussel larvae were detected at Tiber last year and suspected larvae were discovered at Canyon Ferry.

Once established, mussels clog hydropower, irrigation and water treatment infrastructure. They also filter plankton which sends ripples through the ecosystem impacting fish and other aquatic life.

There is no known means of eradicating mussels once established. The best current measures, experts say, are to prevent their spread through inspection and education.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, on Thursday apologized to fellow senators for the shape of the bill, which was heavily amended in committee shortly ahead of transmittal deadline.

Vincent introduced multiple amendments on the floor, saying he wanted to do as much work on SB363 before it goes to the House.

The bill came to the floor tapping fees on hydropower, irrigation and both in-state and out-of-state motorboats.

Senators voted to approve Vincent’s amendments to drop fees on irrigation and watercraft in exchange for a $15 bump to nonresident and $2 bump for resident fishing licenses. Successful amendments also included putting sunsets on the funding mechanisms, passing the full burden of hydropower fees onto customers and putting excess revenue into an invasive species trust to fund future work.

Sen. Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, then introduced an amendment to put a $25 fee on out-of-state bicycles. Sales criticized cyclists when speaking on a different bill he called them “rude” and “self-centered” for his perception of their sharing of the road.

Sales told the floor he had heard from cyclists and believed they should have some “skin in the game” as AIS impacts recreation that lures tourists to Montana.

Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, questioned the seriousness of the amendment before it passed 26-24.

The amended bill then passed second reading 29-21. In must pass third reading to pass to the House.

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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