PA 09-173—HB 5875

Planning and Development Committee

Environment Committee

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

AN ACT AUTHORIZING SPECIAL DISTRICTS TO MAINTAIN WATER QUALITY IN LAKES, STATE LAND WHERE HUNTING IS PERMITTED, THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A MARINE WATERS FISHING LICENSE AND THE TAKING OF SHELLFISH IN WESTPORT

SUMMARY: This act:

1. creates a recreational saltwater (marine sport) fishing license and fees, extends requirements similar to those for inland (freshwater) fishing, and adds marine licensing exceptions;

2. sets a baseline for the amount of state land available for hunting;

3. limits the use of marine sport fishing and hunting license fees to fish and game preservation and related activities; and

4. increases the fine, from $25 to $75, and eliminates prison as a potential penalty, for illegally taking shellfish from the shores, beaches, and flats at “Saugatuck Shores” in Westport.

The act also expands the purposes for which residents may establish special taxing districts to include maintaining the water quality of a lake located solely in one town. The law allows residents to establish districts providing a wide range of public services and infrastructure, including collecting trash and constructing and maintaining drains and sewers. Under the act, residents must comply with the special district statutes when establishing, organizing, and operating a district for lake maintenance. Once established, the act allows the district to apportion assessment for this purpose equally among property owners.

The act makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except for provisions concerning (1) marine fishing licenses, which are effective June 15, 2009, and (2) special water quality districts, which are effective October 1, 2009.

MARINE SPORT FISHING LICENSE

The act establishes, with certain exceptions, a marine sport fishing license for anyone over age 16 who takes, attempts to take, or assists in taking any fish or bait species in the marine district by any method or who lands marine fish and bait species in the state, regardless of where the fish or bait species are taken (e. g. , anadromous fish species, such as striped bass, swim from saltwater to freshwater to spawn). The law requires a recreational license for inland (freshwater) fishing and a commercial license for commercial fishing in the marine district.

Under the act, the marine sport license fee is $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner may issue people age 65 and older who have been state residents for at least one year an annual marine waters fishing license for free. The act requires town clerks to keep a $1 recording fee for each marine waters fishing license they issue.

Exceptions

The act creates several exceptions to the marine sport fishing license requirement. The following people do not have to have a license:

1. people rowing a boat or operating the motor of a boat from which other people are taking or attempting to take fish;

2. anyone fishing as a passenger on a registered party, charter, or head boat operating solely in the marine district; and

3. state residents participating in a fishing derby that the DEP commissioner authorized in writing if, (a) no fees are charged for the derby, (b) it lasts one day or less, and (c) it is sponsored by a nonprofit civic service organization. These organizations are limited to one derby in any calendar year.

One Day, No License. Additionally, the DEP commissioner may designate one day in each calendar year when no license is required for sport fishing in the marine district.

Reciprocity

By law, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York residents may fish for free in certain Connecticut waters without a nonresident license, if their state allows the same (reciprocal) privilege for Connecticut citizens. The act specifies that this law refers to inland waters that lie both in Connecticut and the reciprocating state. It also creates a reciprocal arrangement for such licenses should Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, or Rhode Island enact reciprocal laws or regulations for marine water fishing licenses. Under the act, as under current law, residents of other states are subject to other applicable federal or state fishing laws under any reciprocal agreements.

The act also allows any nonresident who resides in the other New England states or New York to obtain this marine license for the same fee or fees as a Connecticut resident if he or she is a resident of a state that has a reciprocal provision that extends the same privilege to Connecticut residents.

STATE LAND AVAILABLE FOR HUNTING

The act prohibits the DEP commissioner from reducing the amount of state land in one location where hunting is permitted without providing for an equal amount of land elsewhere in the state (i. e. , no net loss of state land where hunting is permitted). The act establishes a baseline of state land where hunting is permitted as not less than the percentage of such land as of July 1, 2008. (It is not clear how, in certain instances, DEP would know that hunting areas had been lost. For example, new construction on private land bordering state land where hunting is permitted would prohibit hunting in the vicinity. )

USE OF HUNTING AND MARINE FISHING LICENSE FEES

The act prohibits diverting hunting license fees for any purpose other than implementing the DEP's charge to protect, propagate, preserve, and investigate fish and game and its administration. It extends to fees from the marine sport fishing license the law's requirement that the DEP commissioner use fishing license fees only for the protection, propagation, preservation, and investigation of fish and game and administration of the department's related functions.

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