Illinois boaters will soon need to think twice before launching at area lakes.
The Chicago-area’s Daily Herald newspaper reports that new legislation targets the spread of invasive plant species by penalizing owners with plant life attached to their boats — the so-called “aquatic hitchhikers” that have put a strain on lake ecosystems across northern Illinois.
The bill, introduced last November by State Rep. JoAnn Osmond of Gurnee, passed May 15 in both houses in Springfield. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign it into law by mid-June.
Under the proposed regulations, violators can be issued a warning or a fine of up to $75.
“It’s not about collecting fines. We’re trying to be friendly and educate with these regulations,” Osmond told the Daily Herald.
Environmental officials have been dealing with invasive plant species, such as Eurasian water milfoil and curly pondweed, for decades, according to the Daily Herald report. The species crowd out native populations and upset the balance of lake ecologies.
They also make it harder for people to swim and fish, lowering property values and leading to losses for the recreational economy in northern Illinois.
Michael Adam, senior biologist at the Lake County Health Department, said the bill addresses a growing problem with invasive plants.
Illinois joins Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Kentucky as Midwestern states with regulations against aquatic life transport.