Peterson Celebrates Game-Changing Technology for NW Angle Tourism

ANGLE INLET - Yesterday, Congressman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) distributed new border identification check technology to local resort owners to officially begin the first phase of a new Lake of the Woods pilot program. U.S. Representative Collin Peterson worked for years on behalf of Minnesotans living in Lake of the Woods County and was an instrumental advocate for the region being selected as a testing ground for the new CBP technology. 

"The communities in Lake of the Woods depend heavily on tourism due to the world-class fishing opportunities," Peterson said. "I am very pleased to share this day with resort owners and anglers alike who will be testing U.S. Customs and Border Protection's new technology on behalf of the nation. I believe these new border check reporting systems will encourage visitors from other parts of Minnesota and the nation to come and enjoy the unique outdoor experiences this area has to offer."

In February, U.S. Representative Peterson wrote and led a letter, along with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), and U.S. Representative Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), to CBP asking the agency to find solutions for safe and efficient alternatives to the outdated OARS system in the Northwest Angle. This request also advocated for initiating a pilot program to begin testing new border check technology in the Northwest Angle.

Ultimately, Lake of the Woods was selected by CBP to test new border check technology which will be released in three phases. The roll out will completely replace Outlying Area Reporting Stations (OARS), which are physical phones inside unheated sheds that are scattered in only three locations across the Northwest Angle. Previously, visitors fishing in Canadian waters would have to check in with CBP at one of the OARS phones before returning to their resort or home. OARS phones have been notoriously difficult for travelers to reach, especially during winter months when weather conditions are freezing, dark and dangerous. 

First, tablets were distributed yesterday to resorts that chose to participate in the pilot. These tablets provide a secure link to the local Warroad Port of Entry where CBP officers will identify travelers returning to Minnesota from Ontario. The resorts provide Wi-Fi connection so their customers can lawfully report their arrival from a safe location. 

Second, CBP is working on a mobile application so travelers can log-in with their information and use the camera feature on their phone to report their entry into the United States.

Finally, the three OARS phones will be permanently replaced by high-tech kiosks, which American and Canadian visitors can also use if they are driving to or from the Northwest Angle for business or other reasons. If this pilot program is successful, the technology could be used across the nation in the future.

U.S. Representative Peterson was joined by local and visiting U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel, Border Patrol Agents, County Commissioners, Lake of the Woods Tourism, and others to deliver the first phase tablet technology to resort owners. Following the event, the group spent the afternoon fishing and enjoyed a fish fry at Flag Island.