Outdoors blog: Klobuchar pushing Coast Guard for solutions
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Klobuchar pushing Coast Guard for solution
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), like U.S. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), is working to solve the Coast Guard licensing issue affecting small-boat operators and fishing guides in Minnesota. Here's a statement from Klobuchar's office on Thursday:
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar on Thursday questioned Vice Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., the President’s nominee to be U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, about the problems small tour boat operators and fishing guides have been experiencing with current Coast Guard licensing regulations. Papp assured Klobuchar that he would work towards a sensible solution that would not unduly burden recreational boaters. Klobuchar highlighted the importance of fishing and tourism to Minnesota’s economy and culture during the Senate Commerce committee hearing.
“Safety and security is paramount but common sense should also be a part of our regulations,” said Klobuchar. “Minnesota has a lot of small business owners who rely on fishing and tourism for survival. The current requirements are too restrictive for recreational boaters.”
Recently, the U.S. Coast Guard unexpectedly announced it would begin to enforce Operators of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) licensing requirements for operators of vessels for hire in federally navigable waters that carry six or fewer passengers. To obtain an OUPV license, the boater must complete a background check and security screening, and take an exam to prove their proficiency in vessel navigation and safety. Small tour operators and fishing guides have raised concerns about their ability to afford an OUPV license as the necessary coursework and licensing fees could cost up to $1500 per boater.
Sport and recreation fishing contributes roughly $2.8 billion to Minnesota’s economy every year. Minnesota’s federally navigable waters include many lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and others such as Rainy Lake, Namakan Lake, and Lake Mille Lacs. The Mississippi River, Minnesota River and Lake Superior are federally navigable, but most operators on those bodies of water are already licensed by the Coast Guard.
Today, officials from Coast Guard Region Nine in Cleveland are meeting with Minnesota DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten in St. Paul and Senator Klobuchar’s staff to discuss common sense options to achieve maritime safety and security without threatening the economic viability of small business fishing guides and tour operators.