As an avid outdoorsman, a clean environment and strong conservation programs are of the utmost concern to me. Protecting the environment can go hand in hand with our efforts to expand our economy. I am working with my colleagues in Congress to develop legislation that is based on sound science and will continue our efforts to maintain and strengthen our environment. One of my top priorities is that we continue to balance growth with stewardship. By reducing rates of pollution in more cost-effective manners, we can ensure that our "green" policies are economically and environmentally sound.
Protecting the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are one of Wisconsin's greatest natural resources. They contain nearly 20 percent of the world's freshwater and supply more than 30 million Americans with their daily drinking water. It is absolutely essential that we make every effort to protect this treasured resource for future generations of Wisconsinites.
I was proud to support the recent Congressional action taken on the Great Lakes Compact, which President Bush signed into law on October 3, 2008. This legislation represents nearly a decade worth of discussion and compromise between the eight Great Lakes states on the best way to prevent water diversions from the Lakes and to implement new environmental protection measures. This legislation was backed by sound science and input from the local communities that would be directly effected. The Great Lakes Compact is an outstanding example of how all stakeholders can work together to protect this vital resource. While this is a good first step, we must continue to fight for strong protections for our lakes. I have been concerned about reports indicating that serious issues still face the environmental health of the Great Lakes such as dangerous levels of bacteria and large blooms of algae.
Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act
Because of lakes' importance to our nation welfare and security, it is essential that we do all we can to protect them. That is why I have cosponsored legislation in the past such as H.R. 1350, the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act. This bill provides $23 billion over 10 years to enact a comprehensive set of environmental protection initiatives, including measures to prevent pollution, control invasive species, and curtail the loss of wildlife habitats. It would also provide funding for programs to protect and conserve fish and wildlife habitat, assist communities with upgrading and improving their wastewater infrastructure, and to help restore and remediate waterfront areas.
The funding would be distributed to a Great Lakes Advisory Board consisting of governors, mayors, federal representatives and others who would then distribute the funding among all of the Great Lakes states. This measure would be very complementary to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) ongoing efforts to coordinate the efforts of the Great Lake States. All levels of government and the private sector must continue to work together on this important initiative.
Many catfish farms began using Asian carp in the 1970s as a means of effectively removing algae and other build-up affecting overall pond function. Unfortunately, due to the large flooding in the area during the 1990s, many of the catfish farm ponds overflowed and released the Asian carp into nearby streams and the Mississippi River Basin. The carp have since made their way up the Mississippi River, competing with indigenous fish for resources and endangering local ecosystems.
Congress has already acted on this issue and is working with the Corps in association with the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration to provide funding and assistance for mitigating the effects that Asian carp are having on the Great Lakes.
Beginning in 2002, the Corps began construction on a temporary electric barrier as a means to slow the spread of the Asian carp. This barrier, which was built and activated in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, emits a pulsating current into the water that causes the Asian carp to turn back rather than continue upstream and into the Great Lakes Basin. This barrier has proven to be extremely effective at controlling the spread of the fish, and in 2004, Congress acted with my support to authorize $6.8 million to construct a permanent barrier. While this amount represents nearly 75 percent of the total estimated cost, the initial amount projected has proven to be insufficient to complete construction.
I have continued to support this important, multi-state project and have signed several letters to that extent. Protecting the Great Lakes from this aggressive invasive species is extremely important from both an ecological and economic perspective.
While the electronic barrier is a good first step, it is clear that more must be done. Knowing the importance of this issue for the Great Lakes Region, I signed onto a Great Lakes Task Force letter asking for the U.S. Department of the Army, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to further examine the ways to ensure that Asian Carp do not make it above the electric dispersal barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal and eventually the Great Lakes. This letter looked at the feasibility of using piscicides as part of a rapid response measure, creating a permanent hydrological separation, increasing the voltage of the current eclectic dispersal barrier, and closing the O'Brien and Chicago Locks if there is a reasonable likelihood that Asian Carp have migrated above the barrier.
The Army Corps of Engineers recently completed work on the Des Plaines River Bypass Risk Reduction Barricade, a 13-mile long fence, designed to reduce the risk of invasive species, such as Asian carp, being swept into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal during heavy rainfall. Rest assured that as Congress continues to examine the ramifications of Asian Carp and possible solutions, I will continue to be actively engaged in this issue.
During the 112th Congress, I serve as an active member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. I am happy to serve in this capacity and believe in supporting policies that help sportsmen. Consisting of more than 300 members of Congress, the Caucus promotes and helps pass legislation that affects sportsmen. This includes issues related to conservation efforts, gun rights, and other hunting-related concerns.