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December 12, 2013

State may charge fee for canoes, kayaks

Dropping a canoe or kayak in New Hampshire waters may soon come at a cost.

It could also become a little more expensive to use a rowboat, sailboat or any other “non-motorized” vessel under a bill being proposed in the Legislature.

Sen. Robert Odell, R-Lempster, is sponsoring legislation that would require owners of these watercraft to pay a $10 annual fee to the state. They would be issued a special decal. Proceeds would help fund the financially strapped Fish and Game Department, which is facing a $3 million deficit.

Lempster is the chairman of a commission charged with studying how to keep Fish and Game operating through the creation of additional revenue sources. Until this year, the department was funded solely through fees from hunting and fishing licenses.

The nine-member commission concluded in its report last month that the $10 fee and other measures would help keep the floundering state agency afloat. Other recommendations include increasing licensing fees and raising the age requirement for receiving free lifetime resident licenses.

“It would be catastrophic if we don’t find an additional source of funding,” said Thomas Hubert, chairman of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission and a member of the study panel.

Hubert and another panel member, Rep. David Kidder, R-New London, said $10 a year is a small price to pay to enjoy the privilege of canoeing, kayaking or boating in New Hampshire. Lempster could not be reached for comment.

“We have to do something to make (the department) more viable,” Kidder said. “We are trying to do this in a relatively painless way.”

He said the department’s responsibilities have increased over the years and hunting and fishing license fees are no longer enough to fund expenses for something such as search-and-rescue operations.

That’s why the Legislature appropriated $1.6 million for the Fish and Game Department in the two-year state budget passed in June. The department will receive approximately $700,000 in fiscal 2014 and roughly $900,000 in fiscal 2015.

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