Penn Yan, NY – Standing at Keuka Lake, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, today announced a comprehensive agenda to stop the spread of invasive species, and protect New York’s waterways. Senator Gillibrand’s plan would expedite a strategy for a physical blockade to waterways that feed the Great Lakes to prevent Asian carp from infiltrating the world’s largest fresh water source, stem the growth of harmful algae blooms, and prevent the next generation of invasive species from entering the country.
“From the Great Lakes to the Finger Lakes, and from the lakes and streams of the Adirondacks to the Hudson River, and every waterway in between, New York State is blessed with beautiful bodies of water,” Senator Gillibrand said. “These vast natural resources help drive our economy, offer miles of recreation, attract tourists, and provide clean drinking water for millions of families. If we’re going to protect these resources today and for future generations, we need to prevent the spread of invasive species.”
A broad range of invasive species can quickly find their way into New York’s waterways, including the Finger Lakes. Zebra mussels arrived through discharged ballast water of shipping vessels on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Long stretches of warm weather can create conditions for the growth of blue-green algae in lakes, threatening the quality of drinking water for local communities, and costing the region tourism revenue by hurting swimming, boating, fishing and other recreational activities. Asian carp are also threatening to reach the Great Lakes, starting in Lake Michigan, and could eventually alter the eco system of the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes, and anyway waterway they invade.
Today, Senator Gillibrand announced her plan to expedite a strategy for a physical blockade to waterways that feed the Great Lakes to prevent Asian carp from infiltrating the world’s largest fresh water source, stem the growth of harmful algae blooms, and prevent the next generation of invasive species from entering the country.
Taking On Algae In Our Waterways
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a problem across New York, and have resulted in the closure of beaches and lakes, as well as damage to fish habitats off the coast. HABs are the rapid overproduction of algae, which produce toxins that are detrimental to plants and animals. Blooms can kill fish and other aquatic life by decreasing sunlight available to the water and by depleting the available oxygen in the water, causing hypoxia. On the coast, they are often referred to as brown or red tides. The existence of blue-green algae is a particular problem in New York’s freshwater lakes. Blue-green algae are a form of algal bloom that has an unpleasant appearance and odor, and will cause illness in humans and animals that come into contact with it. The occurrence of blue-green algae is monitored by New York State, and currently, the state has issued notices for 14 lakes in New York.
Senator Gillibrand is a sponsor of the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act, bipartisan legislation which has already passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill reauthorizes and expands an Inter-Agency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It would require this Task Force to establish a national harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program, develop and publish a national harmful algal blooms and hypoxia action strategy, assess interagency work and spending plans for implementing such program’s activities, review such program’s distribution of federal grants and funding to address research priorities, promote the development of new technologies for predicting, monitoring, and mitigating harmful algal blooms and hypoxia conditions and report on hypoxia. The legislation would also require the development of a national strategy to understand, detect, predict, control, mitigate, and respond to marine and freshwater hypoxia events.
Senator Gillibrand is calling on Senate Leadership to bring this legislation up for a vote in the full Senate.
Keeping Asian Carp Out Of New York’s Waterways
In July, 2012, the Canadian Government released a bi-national risk assessment that again underscored the major threat that Asian carp pose to Great Lakes ecosystems. The risk assessment found that the Chicago Area Waterway System is the most likely entry point for Asian carp into the Great Lakes; once carp have entered the Great Lakes basin it would take only 20 years for them to the other lakes; and it would take less than 10 adult carps for successful reproduction in the Great Lakes.
Senator Gillibrand has been a leader working to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes and New York’s waterways. After urging action by the Army Corps of Engineers, Senator Gillibrand helped pass legislation that requires the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the current study on how to prevent Asian carp from migrating from the Mississippi River Basin to the Great Lakes. Senator Gillibrand is calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to meet the October deadline of the interim report, with the final report expected next winter. The study must include an analysis of hydrological separation – the physical separation of the Chicago Area Waterway System from Lake Michigan.
Preventing The Next Generation Of Invasive Species
Currently, invasive species are regulated by the Lacey Act, a 112-year-old law that gives the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Services (FWS) limited power to regulate non-native species of animals and prohibits their importation and interstate sales. Currently, 236 species of animal are listed as injurious under the Lacey Act, including Zebra Mussels and several species of carp. Once a species is listed as injurious, it cannot be imported into the United States or its territories or possessions, or through interstate commerce. However, the current process can take four years to complete, giving invasive species more time to infiltrate New York’s waterways, potentially costing millions of dollars in damages.
Senator Gillibrand is introducing the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act that would strengthen the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Service to proscriptively address the threat of potentially invasive species by requiring an analysis to determine whether any non-native animal species have the potential to become invasive and harmful to the United States before they can imported or enter into interstate commerce. Specifically, the bill would establish an injurious species listing process based on a clear risk assessment and risk determination process. It will prohibit import and interstate commerce of live non-native animal species if not done in compliance with the Act. This legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.