Freedom—July 9, 2019—The out of state boat decal program introduced in the state legislature in February has become law. Boaters whose vessels are registered outside New Hampshire will now have to pay a $20 annual fee in order to use state waters.
Revenue from the program, which applies only to powerboats, will be used to help pay for milfoil control costs via the state’s Lake Restoration and Preservation Fund.
The law went into effect on July 1, but the Department of Environmental Services (DES) says it is unlikely to be enforced this season because the mechanism for purchasing the decals will take several months to be developed.
In an email, DES said it is soliciting bids to develop a web-based purchase platform for the decals, and is working with the Department of Safety on how to educate boaters about the program.
The new law is the first major piece of legislation for funding invasive species control since the 2009 law that currently puts $9.50 of every in-state boat registration into the Lake Restoration and Preservation Fund.
The decal program is the latest effort by the advocacy group NH Lakes to develop recurring revenue streams in Concord to address the cost of controlling variable milfoil, the most prevalent form of the invasive species that infest state lakes and rivers.
A majority of milfoil control finding comes from a coalition of lake towns and lake organizations rather than from the state. The most recent DES report on funding showed 2017 grant applications for milfoil control totaled $1.1 million, of which the state was only able to award $338,789, split between 41 programs.
The decal program received strong support from the state’s lake communities, including the Ossipee Lake community, according to Kelly Buchanan of NH Lakes.
A second NH Lakes-supported bill that became law this month will establish a commission to study the impact of wake boats on shoreline erosion, swimmer safety, and the spread of aquatic invasive species. The commission, to be comprised of relevant stakeholders, will begin this fall and report on its findings periodically until June, 2020, when its work will conclude.