The U.S. Coast Guard announced last year that it was adding northern border lakes to its patrol area and would step up enforcement of commercial boating license requirements. The announcement caused alarm among Gunflint Trail outfitters, fishing guides and towboat operators because of the potential costs involved.
As proposed, the Coast Guard would step up enforcement of existing laws that require commercial boat operators on federal waters to be licensed. Coast Guard licensing requirements include passing a physical, getting CPR training, obtaining a federal license and ID card, as well as paying for drug testing. According to one maritime school, cost to obtain the license, known as a “six-pack”, is about $1,000. Boat operators would also have to comply with a host of other federal requirements, including having onboard safety flares, navigation lights, lifesaving equipment, fire extinguishers, and communications equipment.
This month, companion resolutions were introduced in the Minnesota house and senate, asking the U.S. Congress to change the Coast Guard licensing laws that apply to small vessels on inland lakes. The resolution argues that the laws are not appropriate for smaller vessels, such as 16-20 foot outboard boats, operating on inland waters, and would adversely affect fishing guide and other small, commercial operators.
The resolution, SF 2780, was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 22. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and a hearing is scheduled for March 1. The companion House resolution, H.F. 3162, was introduced by Representative David Dill on Feb. 25. It was referred to the House Committee on Game, Fish, and Forestry and a hearing is also scheduled for March 1.