Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada's First District today applauded the unanimous passage of the Thompson-Titus amendment to the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013. This bipartisan amendment, co-authored by Titus, directs the GAO to conduct a year analysis examining the current and projected costs associated with combatting aquatic invasive species and to develop a long-term strategy to address this growing concern. In Southern Nevada, the spread of Quagga mussels into local waters, in particular Lake Mead, has presented enormous challenges.
"The growing threat of invasive species not only threatens our local economy and regional environment, it also presents enormous challenges to Southern Nevada's water supply," said Titus. "A long-term strategy is essential to the protection of this critical water reservoir and prevention of the spread of invasives to other parts of our country."
Lake Mead welcomes 8 million visitors every year, and contributes up to $1 billion dollars to the local and regional economy. In addition to recreational opportunities, Lake Mead is also essential to the vitality of Las Vegas and Southern Nevada, providing 90% of the area's water. The spread of Quagga mussels in this critical reservoir has led to expensive countermeasures by the Bureau of Reclamation, which is spending nearly $1 million a year to prevent Quaggas from infiltrating the Hoover Dam intakes. In addition to countermeasures to prevent mussel infestation in Las Vegas' water intakes number 1 and 2 in Lake Mead, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has had to change the design of the Water Intake 3 project, currently underway, to prevent Quagga colonies from growing there as well. If unchecked, the mussels can clog the intakes, preventing water from reaching residents and visitors in Southern Nevada.
In addition to impacts in Southern Nevada, there is also concern about the mussels spreading to other parts of our country. Lake Tahoe, which borders Nevada and California, is on the edge of the waterways where Quagga mussels have taken hold. According to a 2009 Army Corps analysis, should Quaggas establish colonies in Lake Tahoe, the annual economic impact would be $22 million dollars.
The Thompson-Titus amendment is supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, and the National Wildlife Federation.