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New DNR bill takes dim view of some boat lights

Nighttime boaters could face new rules under a bill approved Wednesday in the House Environment and Natural resources Policy and Finance Committee. House Photography file photo
Nighttime boaters could face new rules under a bill approved Wednesday in the House Environment and Natural resources Policy and Finance Committee. House Photography file photo

Nighttime boaters operating with red, green or blue exterior lights would be in violation of the law under one provision of a bill approved by the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee Wednesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), HF1673 is the Department of Natural Resources’ policy and technical bill. It would make a number of changes to the agency’s governing statutes and, DNR officials told the committee, would allow for more efficiency and help modernize additional business practices.

The bill, which was amended to remove several sections, was referred to the House Floor. It has no Senate companion.

The boating provision received much of the discussion during the meeting.

Rep. Mark Uglem (R-Champlin) expressed concern the change could get boaters with dashboard or flooring lights in trouble. But Stan Linnell, DNR boating law administrator, said the provision would only apply to lights visible on the exterior of the boat.

Linnell said the U.S. Coast Guard and state officials have become concerned that decorative boat lights are becoming more popular and, when mixed with waves and distance, can be misinterpreted as law enforcement lights. 

“We already work to enforce excessive lights, but it’s not clearly stated in law,” Linnell said. “This makes it prohibited for law enforcement.” 

Some of the other provisions in HF1673 would:

  • allow asset preservation funds to be used for demolitions;
  • allow commercial trash haulers to transport invasive species for disposal; and
  • allow the DNR to release invasive carp back into the same water bodies where they are captured for research or control purposes.

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