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UC3 urges public comment on proposed AIS funding options

POLSON, MT — The Upper Columbia Conservation Commission (UC3) met on June 13, 2018 at the Flathead Lake Biological Station on Flathead Lake where they learned about and discussed potential funding options for Montana’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Program moving forward.

Hope Stockwell, a research analyst for the Legislative Services Division presented the Environmental Quality Council’s (EQC’s) current proposal to continue funding the state’s AIS Program. Currently, the $6.5 million program is funded by a mixture of hydroelectric fees and an angler ‘prevention pass,’ though this is being reevaluated for the 2019 Legislative session.

The EQC is currently proposing to take the hydroelectric fee out of the budget, make slight adjustments to the angler ‘prevention pass’ (decrease non-resident fee by half, bringing it down to $7.50 per license), adding a watercraft decal user fee ($25 resident motorized; $60 non-resident motorized; $10 all non-motorized) and an annual general fund appropriation. Under this new proposal, the breakdown to reach $6.5 million includes:

Angler ‘prevention pass’: $2,079,120

• Watercraft fee: resident motorized: $1,734,250

• General fund (statutory appropriation): $1,160,000

• Watercraft fee: non-motorized $640,350

• Motorized watercraft generated gas tax $500,000

• Watercraft fee: non-resident motorized; $386,280

• Commercial watercraft fee ($100/year): TBD

The EQC will be accepting public comment on the proposed AIS funding package until July 9th.

‘While the UC3 is not making a recommendation regarding funding at this time, we encourage stakeholders and citizens with an interest in the AIS funding mechanism to provide input on this important issue,’ says Lori Curtis, Chair of the UC3.

Comments will be accepted through MONDAY JULY 9th on the proposal. The EQC will review comments at its July 25-26 meeting in Helena as it considers whether to move this concept forward for consideration by the full legislature in 2019.

Send comments to: Legislative Services Division, Attn: Hope Stockwell PO Box 201704, Helena, MT 59620 or (include ‘AIS funding proposal’ in the subject line).

The UC3 is a title 2 agency created in the 2017 Legislative session to assist with AIS prevention and management in the Upper Columbia basin. All UC3 meetings are open to the public. The next meeting will be held in August 2018.