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Biggert Provision in Water Resources Bill to Cut Anti-Asian Carp Costs for Illinois

Location: Washington, DC

Biggert Provision in Water Resources Bill to Cut Anti-Asian Carp Costs for Illinois

The State of Illinois will be off the hook for anti-Asian Carp costs under a provision included in a water resources bill passed by the House today. The provision was included in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2005, H.R. 2864, at the request of U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13).

Biggert's provision would require the federal government - not the State of Illinois - to cover costs related to the long-term operation and maintenance of the anti-Asian Carp dispersal barriers on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The provision would save the State of Illinois $500,000 to $1 million annually for the lifetime of the barriers.

"These barriers have environmental and economic benefits that reach far beyond the State of Illinois," Biggert said. "It's time for the federal government to bare a greater responsibility for this national - if not international - project. Funding should not rest solely on the shoulders of Illinois or any other Great Lakes state."

In 2002, the Corps began operating a temporary demonstration barrier, which was designed to last two or three years. The Corps currently is completing construction of a permanent barrier. Under current law, when the Corps has completed construction of the permanent barrier, the State of Illinois, as a local project sponsor, would be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the barrier.

At Biggert's request, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee included language in WRDA that would require the federal government to:

* Upgrade the original demonstration barrier to make it permanent;
* Operate and maintain both the demonstration and permanent barrier as a system; and
* Study the full range of options and technologies available to prevent the inter-basin transfer of aquatic invasive species.

The consensus among concerned parties, including the 54 international, federal, state, local, and non-governmental members of the Dispersal Barrier Advisory Panel, is that two barriers are needed to contain the spread of and provide the maximum protection against invasive species like the Asian Carp. In particular, two barriers are required to continue repelling aquatic invasive species in the event on barrier fails of when maintenance is needed on either barrier. That is why the bill authorized the Corps to upgrade of the original demonstration barrier on the canal.

"When all is said and done, it simply makes sense to upgrade the existing demonstration barrier to provide redundant protection," said Biggert. "In the case of preventing invasive species from endangering the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, no precaution is too great."

"We must do everything possible to keep Asian Carp and other invasive species out of the Great Lakes," said Bernie Hansen, U.S. Section Chair of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. "Congresswoman Biggert's provision in the WRDA bill is essential to the future health of Lake Michigan and the entire Great Lakes basin. We applaud Mrs. Biggert for her hard work on the project and urge Congress to pass and fund this initiative as soon as possible."

The barriers are invisible electronic fences that repulse the Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species. Both barriers are located in Romeoville, which is part of Biggert's Congressional District, on the man-made Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. The canal is the only aquatic link between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.

Preying on and competing with native species for food, living space, and spawning areas, the voracious Asian Carp grow between 50 and 150 pounds, eat up to 40 percent of their body weight every day, and each female can carry up to a million eggs. If the Asian Carp reach Lake Michigan and multiply in number, they could devastate the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and endanger the multi-billion commercial fishing industry.

In June 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that an Asian Carp was spotted only 21 miles from the barrier. The carp can travel that distance in six months. Currently, there are over 160 aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes, and a new one is introduced every eight months on average.

WRDA passed the House today by a vote of 406 - 14. A similar bill in the Senate, S. 728, has yet to come up for a vote.

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