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Brainerd Dispatch: Mille Lacs Freedom to Fish Act OK'd for House Vote

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The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Thursday unanimously agreed to report H.R. 5797, the Mille Lacs Lake Freedom to Fish Act of 2012, to the House for consideration. Authored by Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., this legislation concerns Minnesota's state sovereignty, job creation, cutting federal red tape, and strengthening Minnesota's outdoor fishing tradition, according to a statement from the congressman.

In March of 2010, the Coast Guard began requiring fishing guides on Lake Mille Lacs to acquire a federal "six-pack" boating license to continue to do their jobs. This certification is difficult to obtain and can cost individual fishing guides up to $2,000 in fees, training, and travel costs, Cravaack's statement said. Citing historical interstate commerce, this policy change was based on a 1981 Army Corps of Engineers determination that the lake had been used in the 1800s for logging. Ironically, this decision was made despite the fact that the Rum River, which formerly connected the lake to the Mississippi River, had been dammed for decades.

"The state has been conducting effective oversight for over 100 years, and the Coast Guard's action negatively impacts local citizens and makes fishing more expensive," said Rep. Cravaack.

H.R. 5797 would remove the burdensome, administrative overreach by the U.S. Coast Guard and restore the state's authority to permit and inspect the vessels on the lake, Cravaack said in the news release.

The Mille Lacs Lake Freedom to Fish Act was passed out of committee with the support of Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.). The Act is also supported by fishing guides and resort owners.

Rep. Cravaack serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee -- where he is Vice Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee -- the Homeland Security Committee, and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. The 8th Congressional District covers 18 counties in northeast Minnesota.

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