Durbin Joins Great Lakes Task Force in Calling for Greater Authority for Army Corps to Prevent Spread of Asian Carp

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 24, 2010.   U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined twelve Senators in asking the Committee on Environment and Public Works to authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take several steps to prevent the spread of Asian Carp and other invasive species.  The steps include conducting a study on how to achieve physical separation of the waterways, between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River, taking measures to prevent the movement of aquatic nuisance species, purchasing real estate for the barrier system and providing improvements to the electronic barrier to make Barrier I permanent.

“Asian Carp has the potential to do great damage by threatening the native fish and natural wildlife of the lake and in turn, the economy of the entire Great Lakes region,” said Durbin.  “I am glad to join my colleagues from the region in calling for this study and other measures to be included in the next Water Resources Development Act.  We must continue working together to find a solution that will protect our lakes, while preserving jobs and promoting economic activity in the region.”

The letter to committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) is signed by Great Lakes Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roland Burris (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and George Voinovich (R-OH).

Durbin has a long history of working with Congresswoman Judy Biggert (D-IL) to combat the spread of Asian carp, and from 2003 through 2010 they have secured more than $25 million in federal funding to contain the invasive species, and to keep it from entering Lake Michigan. State and federal agencies have already spent millions of dollars to contain the fish, particularly through the electric Asian Carp Barrier project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since 1998, the barrier project has received $41.2 million in federal funding.  In December of last year, Obama Administration launched a $475 million comprehensive Great Lakes initiative which provides a regional approach to controlling invasive species, reducing non-point-source pollution, and cleaning up contaminated sediment.  Of that funding, $78.5 million was allocated to the Draft Asian Carp Control Framework to combat the spread of Asian carp.

The text of the letter appears below:

May 24, 2010

The Honorable Barbara Boxer
Committee on Environment & Public Works
410 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Ranking Member
Committee on Environment & Public Works
456 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member Inhofe:

As members representing the Great Lakes region, we appreciate your consideration of the following requests for inclusion in the next Water Resources Development Act.

We urge that the Committee authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement measures recommended in the Efficacy Study, authorized under section 3061 of WRDA 2007, authorize a study to separate watersheds, authorize measures to prevent the movement of aquatic nuisance species, purchase real estate, and provide improvements to making Barrier I a permanent barrier.

In an effort to slow or stop the spread of invasive species between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watersheds–connected as a result of a project in the early 1900s which the Corps now operates–Congress authorized a dispersal barrier demonstration project in the National Invasive Species Act of 1996.  The barrier has been operating successfully, and a second, permanent barrier is partially constructed.  While the operation of the dispersal barrier system is a strong measure to guard against species moving between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, we believe that additional options are needed.  We need to ensure that the Corps of Engineers has sufficient authorization to improve the existing barrier system and to prevent aquatic nuisance species from bypassing the barrier.

First, we urge you to require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a study of hydrological separation options on the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal (CSSC) to prevent invasive species, especially Asian carp, from migrating through this corridor.  We define hydrological separation as a physical separation on the CSSC that would disconnect the Mississippi River from Lake Michigan.  This separation should be adequate in scope to prevent the transfer of aquatic species between these water basins.  The study should include options to address flooding, Chicago wastewater, waterway safety operations and barge and recreational vessel traffic alternatives.  This should include, but not be limited to: (1) examining other modes of transportation for cargo and CSSC users, and (2) creating engineering designs to move canal traffic from one water body to the other without transferring aquatic species.  The study should detail the environmental benefits and costs of each option.  It is expected that such a study would be conducted in association with the Great Lakes Interbasin Study, authorized under Section 3061 (d).

Second, we encourage you to authorize the preventative measures identified by the Corps as recommended in the final Efficacy Study, authorized under Section 3061(b)(1)(D) of WRDA 2007.  This Study has been divided into four focus areas.  The Corps is proceeding with Interim Reports for each.  The Energy & Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2010 authorized the Corps, for one year, to implement the recommendations of the Efficacy Study or Interim Reports.  Authorizing the measures identified by the Corps will allow for funding consideration while maintaining appropriate Congressional oversight of the Corps budget and workplans.

Finally, the Corps needs a minor amendment to the WRDA 2007 language so that it can purchase real estate for the barrier system and upgrade and make permanent Barrier I of the Electrical Disbursal Barrier System in a location and with the features and operations determined to be the most effective.

We certify that neither we nor our immediate families have a pecuniary interest in any of the congressionally directed spending item(s) that we have requested, consistent with the requirement of paragraph 9 of Rule XLIV of the Standing Rules of the Senate.  We further certify that we have posted a description of the items requested on our official websites, along with the accompanying justification.
We urge the Committee to give full consideration to our requests, and again thank you for your continued support for the Great Lakes.  If your staff has any questions, they may direct their inquiries to Joy Mulinex, Director of the Great Lakes Task Force.

Dick Durbin
U.S. Senator


Source: durbin.senate.gov