Aquatic nuisance species bill passed by ND House, back to Senate

ANS bill passes House

BISMARCK – The threat posed by the spread of aquatic nuisance species was recognized during a session of the ND House Friday afternoon.

By a vote of 71-20 House members approved passage of Senate Bill 2293, which would authorize the establishment of an ANS program to be administered by the Game and Fish Department. The highest profile ANS that has surfaced in the state is zebra mussels, which have been identified in the Red River. Tiny zebra mussels alter habitat by filtering small organisms out of a body of water and cluster in such great numbers that they clog water intakes and other structures.

The Senate earlier voted 45-2 to pass SB 2293. The House amended the Senate version of the bill, removing a $3 surcharge on fishing licenses to help fund implementation of an ANS program. The House version calls for a $15 fee for watercraft licenses. In North Dakota watercraft are licenses for three year periods. In addition, out-of-state boaters would be charged $15 per year if they enter state waters and be required to display a sticker indicating they are in compliance. In-state boaters would not have to display at sticker.

On the floor of the House Friday Rep. Aaron McWilliams, Hillsboro, called the bill “awful” and voted against it.

House member Todd Porter, Mandan, told fellow legislators that ANS was “probably the biggest threat we have to the waters of North Dakota” and that raising watercraft registration fee was the “best method” to pay for the program.

The bill authorizes Game and Fish to hire two full-time equivalent positions to assist in operation of an ANS “education, inspection and monitoring” program. The program is to include the purchase of two boat washing stations that would travel to various locations in the state. The high temperature boat washing stations would be used to remove ANS from boats entering or leaving North Dakota waters.

Porter said the bill was not a “total fix” but was a “great preventive measure to protect our closed basins”.

Because the House passed an amended version of SB 2293, it goes back to the Senate where a conference committee will be tasked with writing a version of the bill that might be agreeable to both chambers.