Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today announced that the final Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) includes a measure she worked on to prioritize new funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for maintaining Great Lakes ports and harbors, and a measure she authorized to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to take emergency measures in the event of an imminent threat of Asian carp and other aquatic nuisance species entering the Great Lakes. The House-Senate Conference Report is expected to pass Congress next week.
“The health of the Great Lakes, and all of our waterways, ports and harbors are key to the health of our economy, and the health of our families,” Senator Gillibrand said. “The spread of Asian carp must be stopped before permanently disturbing the natural ecosystem. And we need to make key investments to strengthen our local ports and harbors so we are making the most of their potential to attract businesses and support new jobs, and grow our economy.”
Asian carp are large, prolific and consume vast amounts of food – weighing up to 100 pounds and ranging as long as four feet – disrupting the food chain that supports native fish. Their large size, ravenous appetites and rapid rate of reproduction pose a significant threat to New York’s ecosystem. This aggressive invasive species could destroy the Great Lakes fish populations, devastating the $7 billion recreational fishing industry, tourism industry and the general economic well-being of the entire region.
The economy and the ecosystem of the entire Great Lakes region are at risk because of the imminent threat of the invasive Asian carp. Current efforts to control the spread of Asian carp include two electrical barriers around Chicago where the Mississippi River links to the Great Lakes. However, these efforts have fallen short, as illustrated by evidence indicating that Asian carp may have migrated past the electrical barrier. The DNA evidence found implies that the Asian carp may now be as close as 6 miles from Lake Michigan, 20 miles closer than previously thought. The invasion of Asian carp into Lake Michigan is significant, since at that point they will have the ability to migrate to all of the Great Lakes.
Senator Gillibrand’s Asian carp provision will permanently authorize the Army Corps to take emergency measures in the event of an imminent threat of aquatic nuisance species, which includes Asian carp, entering the Great Lakes. Specifically, it allows the Army Corps of Engineers to implement measures to improve the effectiveness of the Electric Dispersal Barriers at the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal to stop the flow of Asian carp into the Great Lakes. It would also allow the Corps to take emergency measures should an emergency situation occur in which Asian carp are threatening to enter the Great Lakes through any of the aquatic pathways from the Mississippi River Basin.
In addition, Senator Gillibrand secured language in the bill that would set aside at least 10 percent of new funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the Great Lakes. This funding can be used to dredge and maintain low-use and small harbors along the Great Lakes that have not been fully maintained by the Corps of Engineers due to a lack of funding. Senator Gillibrand will work with the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that this funding benefits ports in New York like Rochester and Oswego, which rely on commercial navigation.