Idaho boaters given the power to choose
What would happen if boaters – absent of lawmakers – had the power to decide the dispersal of boater registration funds?
It is a question that has been answered in Idaho, where its residents, upon registering their boat, designate two lakes where they would like to see 85 percent of their money go. It is what the state calls its “Pay Where You Play” program.
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.
Upon registering, boaters can designate one primary and one secondary county to receive their funds. 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.
“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, nearly every boating-related facility and service is the responsibility of the county, including county sheriffs who are responsible for patrolling the lakes. Therefore, it is logical for counties where those facilities are most used receive the most funding, Dahms said.
Upper Idaho counties Bonner and Kootenai are often home of up to 30 percent of boater registrations; therefore, it receives a large portion of funding from the system, according to Dahms.
Idaho uses a similar system for its snowmobile registrations as well, he said.
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.
Funding from boating registrations makes up only part of funding made available to counties, however. Dahms said funding is also generated through a state fuel tax, as well as grant programs like the Waterways Improvement Fund and the Recreational Boating Safety Grant.