U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today sent a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to allocate $50 million in funding to protect the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain from the threat of invasive species in the FY2022 budget. Full funding for the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain Invasive Species Program would continue efforts to monitor and combat aquatic nuisance species, including zebra mussels and Asian carp, and cut off their access to New York’s waterways. These species pose a serious threat to the natural ecosystems, economy, and public health of the Rochester, Buffalo, Central New York, and North Country regions.
“The Great Lakes and Lake Champlain provide natural beauty and serve as a cornerstone of local economies, attracting tourists from across the country for fishing and recreational activities, and we must act to stop invasive species from being established in these waterways,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This critical funding will help us move quickly to block zebra mussels and Asian carp from entering and becoming established in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, and will protect the public health and economies of the surrounding regions.”
Zebra mussels are fingernail-sized mollusks native to fresh waters in Eurasia. Asian carp are large, prolific, invasive species that can weigh up to 100 pounds and grow up to four feet long. They consume vast amounts of food, disrupting the food chain that supports native fish. The economy and the ecosystem of the entire Great Lakes region and Lake Champlain are at risk because of the imminent threat of invasive zebra mussels and Asian carp. These aggressive species could devastate the Great Lakes ecosystems, which provide drinking water to over 40 million Americans, support a $7 billion fishing industry and a $15.5 billion boating industry, and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
As part of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, Congress authorized $50 million annually for the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain Invasive Species Program. This program is led by the EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office in collaboration with other federal agencies and provides grant funding for efforts to monitor, detect, and respond to aquatic nuisance species within the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain Systems. It is also charged with facilitating the development of ballast water management systems for commercial vessels that operate solely within the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.
Gillibrand has long fought to minimize the risk that Asian carp and other invasive species pose to the Great Lake regions and Lake Champlain. She called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allocate funding toward protecting the Great Lakes from the pervasive threat of Asian carp in their Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 work plan and FY2020 budget. In 2018, Senator Gillibrand announced that following her push, the Senate Interior Appropriations bill included $11 million in federal funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices to control Asian carp in the Mississippi and Ohio River Basis and prevent them from entering the Great Lakes. Gillibrand also reintroduced the bipartisan Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act in July of 2018, legislation that would protect New York’s natural resources from invasive species by giving the United States Fish and Wildlife Service greater authority to regulate nonnative species and prohibit them from being imported or sold in the United States.