Contacts: Tim Eder, email@example.com or Jon MacDonagh-Dumler, firstname.lastname@example.org
Great Lakes Commission releases FY2008 legislative priorities
The Great Lakes Commission, acting on behalf of its eight Member states, is calling upon Congress to take immediate action to protect the lakes against the threat of invasive species.
Comprehensive legislation to curb the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species is the number one priority on the Commission’s annual list of recommendations to Congress, released today. Specific measures include providing for a set of Asian carp barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal; reauthorization of the long-delayed National Aquatic Invasive Species Act (NAISA); and funding sea lamprey controls to protect the region’s multibillion-dollar sportfishing industry.
“The Great Lakes states are increasingly concerned that Congress must act quickly to stem the threat from invasive species,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry Jr., chair of the Great Lakes Commission. “They threaten to upset the entire Great Lakes ecosystem, their numbers growing out of control while they crowd out, starve out or prey upon native species. We need Congress to act now to ensure uniform protection of our Great Lakes resource.”
The full list of the Commission’s FY2008 legislative priorities is available online at www.glc.restore.
Invasive species have been recognized as a major problem in the Great Lakes ever since the lake trout fishery collapsed in the 1950s due to sea lamprey predation. In more recent years the problem has intensified, with a steady progression of new invaders proliferating in Great Lakes waters or bearing down upon the region.
A case in point is the zebra mussel, a tiny mollusk that is believed to have arrived in the ballast water of oceangoing vessels. Since then, their numbers have exploded throughout the lakes, to such a point that they clog water intakes and discharges. The mussels are blamed for the collapse of diporeia populations, a tiny shrimp-like creature that forms an important part of the Great Lakes food chain, because they are more efficient feeders and strip the water of the nutrients the diporeia depend on. As the diporeia starve, so do the whitefish, lake trout and other fish species that depend on them.
A newer threat is the viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS ) virus, also believed to have been introduced in ballast water. The virus, which causes fish to bleed to death internally, is blamed for killing thousands of fish in lakes Erie and Ontario and more recently has been detected in Lake Huron. Meanwhile the Asian carp, another voracious feeder originally imported for the aquaculture industry, has been knocking on the door of the Great Lakes after escaping from fish farms and making its way up the Mississippi River.
The comprehensive NAISA legislation, which addresses multiple aspects of the invasive species problem, has been repeatedly introduced in the last several sessions of Congress but has failed to pass. As a result, many states are pursuing their own legislation, with Michigan implementing its own strict ballast water regulations on Jan. 1, 2007. However, many fear that a state-by-state approach would yield a patchwork of laws that might prove unworkable, and argue for a single federal standard.
The invasive species legislation is the highest priority on the Commission’s annual list of Great Lakes legislative priorities for the current session of Congress. These priorities are chosen to reflect the shared consensus of the Commission’s eight Member states on the most pressing resource management issues facing the Great Lakes region, and complement the recommendations of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.
Other top priorities the Commission lists for the 110th Congress include:
• Legislation to implement and fund the recommendations of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, which set forth a blueprint for Great Lakes restoration;
• Reauthorizing and fully funding the Great Lakes Legacy Act to clean up contaminated sediments in “toxic hot spots” that remain in Great Lakes waters from the era of heavy industrial pollution; and
• Funding to begin restoration of 200,000 of an eventual 550,000 acres of Great Lakes wetlands.
Other priorities include measures to protect coastal areas, address water resources infrastructure needs and support core federal programs and research that are essential to the successful management and protection of the Great Lakes.
The recommendations will be a focal point of the annual Great Lakes Day in Washington policy forum on March 6-7, sponsored by the Commission and the Northeast-Midwest Institute. More than 200 people will attend Great Lakes Day events, which will include a breakfast reception for Great Lakes delegates to meet informally with members of the Great Lakes Congressional Delegation and a congressional hearing in front of the House Transportion and Infrastructure Committee on the topic of invasive species in the Great Lakes.
The full document is available online at www.glc.org/restore. Contact: Tim Eder, email@example.com or Jon MacDonagh-Dumler, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great LakesSt. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Great Lakes Commission
The Hon. John D. Cherry, Jr., Chair; Tim A. Eder, Executive Director
Eisenhower Corporate Park • 2805 S. Industrial Hwy. Suite 100 • Ann Arbor, Michigan • 48104-6791
734-971-9135 • Fax: 734-971-9150 • Web: www.glc.org
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