Minnesota boaters in limbo, law to require DNR test on invasive species takes effect July 1


In 2012, when Republicans controlled the House and Senate in St. Paul, a law was passed to address invasive aquatic species.  A bipartisan group of legislators at the time opposed the larger game and fish bill for varying reasons, but it still passed the House on a narrow 68-62 vote and in the Senate by a 34-28 vote.

The 2012 law is set to take effect on July 1st and it requires that all Minnesotans– who transport a boat or other watercraft  as well as equipment like docks and lifts–  take a paid 30-minute course on invasive aquatic species and display a state decal to show passage of the course.  The law would also require that the test be administered to anybody passing through Minnesota to transport a boat or other watercraft.  The course and fee would be administered by the Department of Natural Resources and would  be required every three years.

Although a price tag for the test was never published, there is currently a $50 application and testing fee for “lake service providers” — businesses that engage in renting, leasing, storing, or moving watercraft and water equipment. All employees of these providers must take an invasive aquatic species test today.

The DNR had been preparing to administer the test and get the word out to the public until the new legislative session began and state representatives and senators worked on several bills to repeal the program.

The legislature succeeded in passing a provision to postpone the testing and decal requirement under the omnibus agricultural and environment bill, but Governor Dayton has since vetoed that bill and  Minnesota boaters now await a special session to resolve the issue.

Since 2011, when the issue of invasive aquatic species got a lot of attention at the legislature, the DNR’s Water Resource Enforcement Officers have dramatically increased their compliance checks.  Minnesotans can expect these numbers– and the government employees required to enforce new laws– to increase.  If the Governor doesn’t act quickly, the DNR will have to enforce the existing law without a test in place, creating great confusion and interfering with Minnesotans’ coveted summertime on the water.