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 on April 18 by a vote of 395 - 25. Based on H.R. 553, the Great Lakes Asian Carp Barrier Act, introduced by U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13), the provision was included in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), H.R. 1495, at Biggert's request.
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, saving the State of Illinois up to $1 million annually for the lifetime of the barriers. Located on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the only aquatic link between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, the barriers are invisible electronic fences that repulse fish like the Asian carp.
"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 bear 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:
o Upgrade the original demonstration barrier to make it permanent;
o Operate and maintain both the demonstration and permanent barrier as a system; and
o Study the full range of options and technologies available to prevent the inter-basin transfer of aquatic invasive species.
"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."
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. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reported that an Asian Carp was spotted only 21 miles from the barrier. Currently, there are over 160 aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes, and a new one is introduced every eight months on average.
"If the Asian Carp reach Lake Michigan and multiply in number," Biggert said, "They could devastate the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and endanger the multi-billion commercial fishing industry."
"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."
H.R. 1495 is similar to WRDA legislation from the 109th Congress, H.R. 2864. In July 2005, H.R. 2864 passed the House by a vote of 406 - 14, and an amended version passed the Senate by voice vote in July of 2006. A House-Senate conference committee could not resolve differences between the two bills before the end of the 109th Congress.
In January, Biggert introduced another bill to protect the Great Lakes from Asian Carp. H.R. 83, the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act, would add black, silver, and bighead species of carp to the list of species that are prohibited from importation or shipment in interstate commerce.