Brad Dokken: Pilot program to benefit Northwest Angle

The pilot project will benefit tourists returning to the remote part of Minnesota after venturing into Ontario by snowmobile or boating into Ontario waters and stepping foot on Canadian soil.

As Lake of the Woods Tourism explained in a news release, U.S. citizens who fish in Canada and touch land currently must check back into the U.S. by visiting the nearest Outlying Area Reporting Station (OARS) phone upon their return.

Oddly enough, ice by definition is considered land. So, ice anglers who fish in Ontario for the day and stay at a cabin or resort on Oak or Flag islands in Minnesota have to venture to Young’s Bay on the Northwest Angle mainland, site of the nearest OARS phone, to check in upon their return.

That means a round-trip of up to 16 miles in potentially dangerous weather conditions. Ditto for boaters who fish in Ontario and step foot onto an island or mainland shoreline for shore lunch or to answer nature’s call.

Even if it’s storming, those anglers have to drive to Young’s Bay and check in at the OARS site if they touched Canadian soil during their trip.

The pilot project will alleviate that requirement by implementing a check-in process that can be done without visiting an OARS station.

Here’s how Lake of the Woods Tourism described the plan, which had support from Peterson, Democratic Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, and Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn.:

• Beginning sometime next month, Lake of the Woods resorts will have the opportunity to have an iPad loaded with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection check in program. Resorts will need to provide a heated, somewhat private area with Wi-Fi connectivity. Visitors who cross into Canada and touch land then will be able to check back into the U.S. with one of the designated iPads instead of traveling to the nearest OARS phone.

“In a nutshell, providing personal info, passport credentials and answering four questions about declaration of goods will generate a video call with a Customs agent,” Lake of the Woods…

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