Idaho boaters have the power of choice

December 2012 Industry

Registration funds are a necessary part of owning a pontoon or a deck boat. But it seems one state has come up with a way to allow the people that pay these funds decide how they are going to be used instead of letting lawmakers make the decisions. Idaho allows residents to designate two lakes where they would to see 85 percent of their money go. They call this innovative program "Pay Where You Play."

When people register their boats, they pick a primary and a second county to receive the money. Those funds are then given to that county's Waterways Advisory Committee, which is typically made up of boaters in the region. The committees in turn designate what projects to fund.

According to Idaho Boating Program Manager Dave Dahms, the idea is that boaters direct those dollars to their favorite, most frequented boating locations, which in turn fund boat improvement projects and law enforcement activities.

"I think this program has been extremely effective because it is in the hands of the boaters to tell the state where they want their money spent," Dahms said.

In Idaho, boating-related facilities and services are the responsibility of the county, including county sheriffs who have the job of patrolling the lakes. Therefore, it makes the most sense for counties where those facilities are most used receive the most funding, Dahms said.

Two Idaho counties, Bonner and Kootenai, are account for 30 percent of boater registrations. This allows for these counties to receive a large portion of funding.

Idaho uses a similar system for its snowmobile registrations as well.

The system has not caused a shortage of funding in less popular lakes, according to Dahms, who has been with Idaho Parks and Recreation for nearly seven years.

This is a great way to allow boaters a voice in their home state. If you enjoy pontooning in a certain area, you can guarantee your registration money will be spent there. Simple, right?

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