It’ll cost more this summer to get out onto the water. Governor Tom Vilsack on Monday signed a bill that will nearly double boat registration fees the first of July. Department of Natural Resources law-enforcement bureau chief Lowell Joslin says in all, the state will collect one million dollars more from the higher boat fees. Those fees haven’t been raised for over 20 years, he points out, the additional money will go to things like boater-education programs and to fight invasive aquatic species. Plants that have no natural enemies can be carried on boat propellers and in minnow buckets, crowding out natural plants like cattails with masses of weeds like purple loosestrife instead. Joslin says many boating groups supported the higher fees because they want tougher D.N.R. enforcement on Iowa’s lakes and rivers. “They’ve been clamoring for it,” Joslin says. “They want more enforcement on the water, they want more education.” He says user groups themselves have been asking for higher fees for two or three years at least. He says it’s been at least ten years since the fees were raised, and the extra money will allow the Department of Natural Resources to expand its training for teenage boaters — which he says will make everyone safer. Joslin points to the state’s hunter-education program which has been mandatory for more than two decades now. “That alone has taken us from several fatalities in triple-digit numbers, down to no fatalities and hardly single-digit figures on accidents each year.” He says mandated education, whether it’s for hunters or boaters, is a positive thing. The new law also allows the D.N.R.to quit doing annual inspections on all rental boats — instead, they’ll be optional. Joslin compares it to renting a car at the airport: “You don’t have the Iowa State Patrol come out and do an inspection of that vehicle before you rent it, you just come out and rent it and if you’re a good consumer you’ll kick the tires and make sure it’s in good operating condition before you leave.” Joslin says the agency will take the same approach to rental vessels — “canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, things like that.”
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