State Sen. Ken Rozenboom

State Senator Ken Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa)

(Des Moines) -- A bill passed in the Iowa Senate would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from stocking private ponds.

The Senate passed Senate File 203 Wednesday by a 34-14 vote. The bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Commission -- which oversees the DNR -- from stocking private ponds or lakes. Additionally, the bill would not require anglers to have a fishing license to fish on land-locked private ponds. State Senator Ken Rozenboom -- a Republican from Oskaloosa -- says the bill paves the way for private fish hatcheries in the state to provide private waterway stocking.

"The DNR has not been doing stocking recently because of budget issues," said Rozenboom. "We think it's a good time for the private hatcheries of this state to step up, and I think they are doing that."

The bill does allow DNR stocking of creeks or streams that flow through private property. Rozenboom says other than that provision, the definition of a private pond or lake is left intentionally vague.

"Through this process, there's been discussion on how to define lakes and ponds," said Rozenboom. "I don't think that's currently defined in code, so we tried to manage that without getting into a lengthy discussion. After all, the EPA can't figure out what Waters of the U.S. means yet."

Several Democrats opposed the provision of the bill that would completely eliminate DNR stocking of private ponds. Senator Nate Boulton introduced an amendment that would strike that portion from the bill, but would still allow unlicensed fishing on private ponds, that was defeated. Boulton says the DNR has done a good job of assisting in private pond management.

"There are several landowners who have benefited from the DNR being able to help them manage their aquatic habitat to make sure that we have sustainable fish populations and healthy habitats in those private ponds," said Boulton. "They have that option right now, to invite the DNR to be a part of managing that aquatic habitat is a good thing for our landowners in this state."

Senator Jake Chapman -- a Republican from Adel -- says allowing the DNR to compete with private fish hatcheries creates an unlevel playing field.

"I've gotten multiple emails from these fish hatcheries saying 'how can we possibly compete when the DNR is proposing doing $25 per acre on a pond?'" said Chapman. "I stock my pond through a private fish hatchery, and they did a phenomenal job. These are people who pay sales tax, property tax and all these other taxes, and here we are saying with this amendment, let's let the DNR compete using taxpayer money against the people paying taxes."

The bill will now head to the House for consideration.

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