U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to allocate funding towards protecting the Great Lakes from the pervasive threat of Asian carp in their Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 work plan and FY2020 budget. Specifically, Schumer and Gillibrand called on the USACE to direct $23.51 million towards the problem in their FY2019 work plan, and $24.2 million towards the problem in their FY2020 budget. Schumer and Gillibrand said that requested funding would go towards continued efforts to cut off Asian carp’s access to waterways that they can use to enter Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The senators explained that Asian carp pose a threat to the Great Lakes food chain, and thus, the Great Lakes ecosystem, and that prioritizing the control of the invasive fish is critical.
“The Great Lakes are a key driver of tourism and economic activity for many New York communities, and we must do all we can to ensure invasive species like the Asian carp, do not undermine the entire Great Lakes ecosystem. Asian carp threaten Lakes Erie and Ontario and many of the cities, towns and industries that rely on them,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why we need aggressive solutions to stop the spread of Asian carp and other invasive species. These initiatives would help protect the Great Lakes ecosystem as well as the local economies by cutting off critical waterways that Asian carp could use to reach Lakes Erie and Ontario. We must continue to work to help ensure this invasive species does not destroy the countless benefits the Great Lakes provide to communities around the state.”
“Asian carp pose an imminent threat to the Great Lakes, and we need to do everything we can to stop this invasive species from coming into some of our state’s most important waterways,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should move quickly to block Asian carp from entering and becoming established in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The Great Lakes are an important fishery for our state, attracting tourists and families from all over the country. They are essential to our local economy, and I will always fight in the Senate to make sure they are restored and protected for generations to come.”
Schumer and Gillibrand requested funding for four initiatives in the USACE’s FY2019 work plan. First, the senators urged the USACE to direct $496 thousand to complete the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study – Brandon Road Feasibility Study (GLMRIS), which aims to stymie the flow of Asian carp into the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin, and $3.8 million needed to move forward on Preconstruction Engineering and Design (PED) work. Second, Schumer and Gillibrand called on the USACE to direct $310 thousand for GLMRIS-Program Management, which will permit the USACE to take part in the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, and commence work on the Ohio Little Killbuck Creek and Erie Canal, which are also paths Asian carp can travel to enter the Great Lakes. Lastly, the senators called on the USACE to direct $18.9 million towards Electric Dispersal Barriers in Romeoville, Illinois, which will also prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan.
Additionally, Schumer and Gillibrand requested funding for three initiatives in the USACE’s FY2020 budget. The senators urged the USACE to direct $4.9 million to the GLMRIS PED initiative, $315 thousand for GLMRIS Program Management, and $18.9 million for Electric Dispersal Barriers in Romeoville, Illinois.
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 invasive Asian carp. Current efforts to control the spread of Asian carp are located in the Chicago and Ohio River Basins, where the Mississippi River Basin links to the Great Lakes. 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. This aggressive invasive species could devastate the Great Lakes ecosystems, which provide drinking water to over 30 million Americans, support a $7 billion fishing industry and a $15.5 billion boating industry, and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought to minimize the risk that Asian Carp pose to the Great Lakes. In August, the Senators announced that following their 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, 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.
A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to the USACE appears below.
Dear Assistant Secretary R.D. James:
As members of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force, we are writing to urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to allocate funding in the FY2019 work plan and request funding in FY2020 for the following projects of critical importance to the wellbeing of the Great Lakes and to our state and regional economies.
The USACE is undertaking multiple efforts to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. These actions are critical to protecting the Great Lakes ecosystem and our $7 billion recreational fishing and $16 billion boating industries. Accomplishing this objective requires funding to complete the Brandon Road Lock and Dam Chief’s Report and proceed to Preconstruction Engineering and Design (PED); address multiple pathways for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes; and ensure the electric dispersal barrier is operational.
To that end, we urge USACE to allocate a total of $23.51 million in the FY2019 work plan in the following manner:
• $496,000 to complete the GLRMIS-Brandon Road Study and $3.8 million for the federal portion of the funding needed to proceed to Preconstruction Engineering and Design (PED) work.
• $310,000 for GLMRIS-Program Management, the amount needed for the USACE to coordinate with stakeholders, participate in the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, and begin work on two additional pathways – Ohio’s Little Killbuck Creek and Erie Canal – through which Asian carp could enter the Great Lakes.
• $18.9 million for the Electric Dispersal Barriers near Romeoville, Illinois.
For the FY2020 budget, we ask that $24.2 million be requested for the following:
• $4.9 million for Brandon Road Preconstruction, Engineering and Design work.
• $315,000 for GLMRIS Program Management.
• $18.9 million Electric Dispersal Barriers near Romeoville, Illinois.
The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan serves as a gateway to transport nearly 80 million tons of goods and raw materials that supply the region’s manufacturing, mining, and agricultural industries. The June 29, 2018 Economic Validation Study and Post Authorization Change Report for the Soo Lock project noted that “the strategic importance of the Soo Locks cannot be overstated.” And a report by the Department of Homeland Security concluded it was “hard to conceive” of a single piece of infrastructure more consequential in terms of impact to the economy from an unexpected and sustained closure.
It is imperative that sufficient funding be provided to operate and maintain the Soo Locks. We thank you for allocating $57 million in the FY2018 work plan, which we understand will provide sufficient funding for major rehabilitation work at the Soo Locks for the next three years. In the FY2019 work plan, we ask that $16.6 million be included for asset renewal work that is also needed to ensure the operation of the Lock in the coming year.
In addition to the funds necessary to maintain and operate the Soo Locks, we ask that you include $74 million in the FY2019 work plan and $92 million in the FY2020 budget request to enable the USACE to begin the initial work necessary to construct a second Poe-sized lock. Of the two operational locks at the Soo Locks facility, only the Poe has the necessary dimensions for the largest vessels to pass. Building a second Poe-sized lock will provide the resiliency needed to ensure this critical infrastructure remains open for commerce.
Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study
This study proposed by the USACE, in consultation with Great Lakes states, would be a first of its kind effort to develop a coordinated strategy to manage and protect the Great Lakes’ and its 5,200 mile coastline from threats associated with lake level fluctuations, erosion, flooding, nutrient runoff, and aging infrastructure.
The robust and diverse support this study has garnered demonstrates its merits and importance. Proponents for the study include seven Great Lakes states, three USACE Districts (Chicago, Detroit, and Buffalo), and the USACE’s Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. It also has the support of the Great Lakes Commission and several federal agencies with missions in coastal management, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey.
We were disappointed that last year’s budget did not request funding for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study. To rectify this decision, we urge the USACE to allocate $1.2 million for the study in the FY2019 work plan and include $3.6 million for it in the FY2020 budget request.
We thank you for considering these important requests.