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Obama, Durbin Announce That Legislation Which Provides Funding to Protect Great Lakes from Invasive Species Will Soon be Signed into Law

Location: Washington, DC

Obama, Durbin Announce That Legislation Which Provides Funding to Protect Great Lakes from Invasive Species Will Soon be Signed into Law

U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that legislation providing $400,000 to operate barriers that prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes will soon be signed into law. The funding was included in the Supplemental Appropriations Bill in an amendment offered by Senators Obama and George Voinovich (R-OH). As a member of the conference committee that reconciled the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, Senator Durbin's efforts were crucial to ensuring that the funding was preserved.

The demonstration barrier in the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal was authorized in 1996 under the National Invasive Species Act to prevent non-native species like the Asian carp from moving between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. Since this barrier was designed to be temporary and is close to the end of its expected service life, a second permanent barrier is being constructed. The Army Corps of Engineers indicated that they would shut down the demonstration barrier this month without additional funding - putting the region's $4.1 billion sport and commercial fishing industry at great risk.

"If these barriers were turned off and Asian carp were allowed to enter the Great Lakes, they could quickly destroy the native species and forever change the lakes' ecosystems," said Obama. "This funding will ensure that the efforts of so many people will not have been in vain. I am very pleased that Senator Durbin and I were able to work together to help preserve one of our most treasured natural resources."

"I commend my colleagues for working together to secure these funds in time," said Senator Durbin. "The carp approaching the northern section of the Illinois River and Lake Michigan have no natural predators and threaten both the native fish and natural wildlife of the lake, and, in turn, the economy of the entire Great Lakes region. The $400,000 approved this week will ensure that this critical barrier remains in operation, and that we avert a potentially devastating situation."

The funding provided by this amendment will keep the demonstration barrier in operation through FY2006, maintaining the protection of the Great Lakes and providing the Corps with the necessary time to ensure that the permanent barrier is fully tested and up and running. Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mark Dayton (D-MN), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) co-sponsored the amendment.

Asian carp threaten the Great Lakes ecosystem because they quickly consume large quantities of phytoplankton, which is critical to the stability of the ecosystem. Originally, they were introduced to the United States as a management tool for aqua culture farms and sewage treatment facilities. The carp have made their way north to the Illinois River after escaping from fish farms during massive flooding along the Mississippi River. Asian carp can grow to an average of four feet and 60 pounds, and can consume up to 40 percent of their body weight in plankton per day.

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