Proposed dock rules changes raise ire in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa Department of Natural Resources proposal has churned up a debate among the state’s marina operators, the Des Moines Register reported in an article yesterday.

In the most comprehensive revision in decades, the DNR wants to sharply raise fees for people who make money on the state’s lakes and rivers — such as marina operators, the newspaper said. At the same time, the department plans to spare most home¬owners from having to get a permit or pay a fee for a standard dock.

Those dock owners would only have to attach their home’s 911 address to the end of the dock. Only those with extra hoists or docks that are unusually large would have to pay and get a permit, and even then, the current lengths of docks up to 300 feet would be allowed if the owners had a permit before, the Register reported.

That has angered marina operators, who say they are already preparing to sue the state because they do not think it’s fair to treat them differently from the way homeowners would be treated by the new rules, the newspaper said.

Those business owners told the newspaper they are being picked on. They noted that their marinas make sure that people who cannot afford a fancy lake home still can get onto a lake.

“I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to restrain the use of the lake,” Mau Marine’s Susan Mau, Okoboji, Iowa, told the Register. “We don’t want unintentional consequences.”

Mike Smith, a lawyer who advises the DNR, told the newspaper, “Pretty much everyone agrees the fees are ridiculously low.”

Marinas pay $2 a year to the state for each small-boat slip and $4 a year for bigger ones, the newspaper reported. Under the new rules, marinas would generally pay $50 per slip each year.

Butch Parks, who runs two Okoboji-area marinas, figures he would pay $5,000 to $10,000 more in fees, including $450 for nine WaveRunner ramps that the state would define as hoists, making them subject to fees, the Register said. Riders park WaveRunners on the vinyl ramps during restroom or shopping stops.

“Why would I provide a place for the public to go to the bathroom if I have to pay $450?” Parks told the newspaper.

Siding with many marina operators, Parks told the Register the state would be better off charging a fee of $5 a year for every hoist and dock in the state.

State officials told the newspaper they do not necessarily object to that idea, but they doubt lawmakers would approve.

The DNR’s Ken Herring told Clear Lake, Iowa residents that the state expects to raise $60,000 from fees and spend about $100,000 a year on enforcing dock regulations, the Register reported.

The final rules proposal is expected in late September, the newspaper said. If approved, the rules would take effect in late February 2007.

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