Legislators Seek Boat Fee Hike for Invasive Species

Byline: Log News Service

Legislators Seek Boat Fee Hike for Invasive Species

SACRAMENTO (LOG NEWS SERVICE) — The California Legislature has approved a bill authorizing the Department of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating) to charge boat owners an additional fee to provide a source of funding to protect state waters against quagga and zebra mussel infestations.

The measure — Assembly Bill 2443, authored by Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams of Santa Barbara  — would authorize Cal Boating to charge a fee not to exceed $10, on top of the current $10 per year registration fee, to be used to provide grants to local governments to establish or maintain existing mussel monitoring, inspection and education programs.

California law already requires local plans to prevent invasive species infestation. However, Williams said AB 2443 will establish a reliable source of revenue to support these programs.

According to a legislative report, the highly invasive quagga and zebra mussels reproduce rapidly and in large quantities, and they can severely hinder water delivery systems by clogging pipes, pumps and other water intake structures.

Quagga mussels were first discovered in California in 2007 and have since been identified in 25 freshwater bodies in California, mostly in Southern California and in the Colorado River aqueduct. Zebra mussels were found in San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County in 2008.

According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the new fee would provide $5.1 million annually to the state’s Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund, with up to $4.2 million available annually for local grants to fund infrastructure programs.

The legislation provides that the exact amount of the fee to be collected within the $10 limit is to be determined by Cal Boating.

A final version of the measure has been forwarded to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until the end of September to sign or veto it.

Cleve Hardaker, president of the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC), said RBOC has urged Brown to veto AB 2443.

“We share the objective of combating invasive species,” Hardaker said. “Our organization remains unconvinced, however, that the provisions of this bill will accomplish this objective — and we do not believe that the provisions justify a possible doubling of the state registration fees paid by this state’s boaters,” Hardaker wrote in a letter he sent Aug. 29 to Brown.

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