Char-Koosta News 

ZOOMVILLE — The fall quarterly “virtual” meeting of the Upper Columbia Conservation Commission had a number of updates with the thorny issue of increasing fines for inspection station drive-bys topping the list. 

The Legislative Committee update featured the issue of fines for Aquatic Invasive Species inspection station drive-bys. The topic of discussion was to whether or not increase bonds and fines for initial drive-by tickets and subsequent drive-bys tickets. The bond is presently $85, and fine for conviction if forfeit of the bond.

The concern related the increase of fine is that it could become a political hot potato, and maintaining the delicate balance between education and fines is critical. Too high of fines could result in a political backlash; the present bonds and fines have been a good tool to get the attention of drive-bys and inform them of the reason for inspections. 

After much discussion it was decided to put the political hot potato in the lap of the upcoming Legislative session that opens in January.

Montana AIS Bureau Chief Tom Woolf gave a short wrap-up of the “wilder” than normal 2020 boating season that included a record of more than 133,000 inspections that found 35 mussel fouled water craft. 

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, through its AIS Program provides funding to the conservation districts and other partners throughout the state that hire and supervise employees. The partners use 10 percent of the funding for administration, the rest is used for employee wages.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes contracts with FWP to operate two inspection stations, one in Ravalli and the other in Thompson Falls.

Erik Hanson, CSKT AIS program coordinator, lauded the Tribes relationship with the Montana FWP and the improvement in quality controls at its inspection stations. 

Additional funding from the Bureau of Reclamation enabled the Ravalli inspection station to remain open 24/7 during the peak of the boating season. Also monitoring cameras were installed at the station for added security, and as a learning tool on how to conduct inspections and deal with the public.

“It was a tough year but a good year, and we are looking forward to next year,” Hanson said.

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