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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch, Mike Crapo (both R-Idaho), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) introduced legislation to ensure that states can collect fees during the boat registration and certificate of numbering process. These fees help fund programs to address aquatic invasive species, boating safety, search and rescue and others. The State Boating Act would reinstate the state’s authority to collect those fees. Recently, the Coast Guard has blocked a number of states from collecting these fees.

“Invasive species are a serious threat to Idaho’s waterways,” said Risch. “The State Boating Act ensures Idaho can continue to collect invasive species boat sticker fees to fund our best defenses. I am urgently calling on my Senate colleagues to pass our legislation to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from overpowering our lakes and rivers, like they have in so many other states.”

“Last year, we saw the important role funding for invasive species mitigation plays in Idaho after the presence of quagga mussels was confirmed in the Snake River,” said Crapo. “States should have the regulatory and administrative certainty to carry on their prevention and mitigation programs in the same, streamlined process that has been working in Idaho for more than a decade. This bill eliminates unnecessary red tape imposed by the federal government.”

“To help keep our waters safe, it’s critical that New Hampshire be allowed to collect these vessel fees—as the state has done for decades—so programs like boating safety, search and rescue operations and efforts to address invasive species in our waterways can continue unimpeded,” said Shaheen. “I’m proud to lead this bipartisan legislation that would support efforts to keep Granite Staters safe on our waters.”

Most boats owned and operated on the waters of the United States must have either a Certificate of Documentation (COD) or a Certificate of Number (CON) on board when operating. Additionally, boats with propulsion machinery must have on board a valid CON or temporary certificate, unless the vessel qualifies for an exception under the law. Most vessel owners obtain a CON from the state in which they spend the most time operating. States can administer their own numbering programs if those programs comply with Standard Numbering System (SNS) requirements and receive Coast Guard approval. However, according to the Coast Guard’s reading of its enabling statute, states are authorized to condition the issuance of vessel numbers only for proof of ownership, proof of payment of state or local taxes, and/or proof of liability insurance. A number of states have been collecting additional state fees with the CON fees to fund and support boating and environmental programs, like aquatic invasive species, boating safety, search and rescue and other purposes. 

After multiple audits in states such as Idaho and New Hampshire, the Coast Guard has directed states not to collect state boating fees alongside CON fees. The State Boating Act would clarify the ability of states to collect state boating fees alongside CON fees and registration.