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By Mr. DEWINE (for himself, Mr. LEVIN, Ms. STABENOW, Mr. REED, and Mr. VOINOVICH):
S. 507. A bill to establish the National Invasive Species Council, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, today, I am pleased to join with Senators LEVIN, STABENOW, REED, and VOINOVICH to introduce the National Invasive Species Council Act--a bill to permanently establish the National Invasive Species Council. I would like to thank my colleagues for their hard work on this legislation.
Recognizing the need for better coordination to combat the economic, ecologic, and health threats posed by invasive species, the federal government established the National Invasive Species Council by Executive Order in 1999. Today, the Council continues to operate and develop invasive species management plans. However, the Council is not as effective as it could be. The GAO reported that implementing these management plans is difficult because the Council does not have a congressional mandate to act. GAO further reported that most of the agencies that have responsibilities under the National Invasive Species Management Plan have not been completing activities by established due dates and that these agencies lack coordination. These are significant problems that must be addressed.
Invasive species are a national threat that we cannot afford to ignore. Many states are trying to combat these species that are threatening their local environments. Examples of such plants and animals include the emerald ash borer, which has been particularly troublesome in my home state of Ohio; the Chinese mitten crab; and hydrilla, considered to be one of the most problematic aquatic plants in the United States. If left unchecked, these and other invasive species pose dangerous environmental, health, and economic threats. Estimates of the annual economic damages caused by invasive species in this nation are as high as $137 billion. It is clear that more must be done.
To combat the serious threats posed by invasive species, we need federal coordination and planning. Our bill would provide just that and on a permanent basis. Under this legislation, the Secretaries of State, Commerce, Transportation, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Interior, Defense, and Treasury, along with the Administrators of EPA and USAID, would continue to work together through the National Invasive Species Council to develop a National Invasive Species Management Plan.
The duties of the Council are generally to coordinate federal activities in an effective, complementary, cost-efficient manner; update the National Invasive Species Management Plan; ensure that federal agencies implement the Management Plan; and develop recommendations for international cooperation. Additionally, if recommendations are not implemented, agencies would have to report to the Council. The Council is directed to develop guidance for federal agencies on prevention, control, and eradication of invasive species so that federal programs and actions do not increase the risk of invasion or spread non-indigenous species. And finally, the bill would establish an Invasive Species Advisory Committee to the Council.
The National Invasive Species Council could enhance its effectiveness and better protect our environment from invasive species with a congressional mandate. I urge my colleagues to co-sponsor this measure so that the Federal Government can better respond to the threat posed by invasive species.
By Mr. DEWINE (for himself, Mr. Levin, Ms. Stabenow, Mr. Lugar, Mr. Bayh, Mr. Dayton, and Mr. Kohl):
S. 508. A bill to provide for the environmental restoration of the Great Lakes; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, today I am proud to introduce the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act with my colleague, Senator LEVIN. I would like to thank him for all of his hard work on this legislation.
For those who have seen one of the five Great Lakes, it is not difficult to understand their importance. Covering more than 94,000 square miles and draining more than twice as much land, these freshwater seas hold an estimated six quadrillion gallons of water--or one-fifth of the world's surface freshwater. The Great Lakes ecosystem includes such diverse elements as northern evergreen and deciduous forests, lake plain prairies, and coastal wetlands. Over 30 of the basin's biological communities and over 100 species are globally rare or found only in the Great Lakes basin. The 637 State parks in the region accommodate more than 250 million visitors each year, and the Great Lakes basin is home to more than 33 million people--or one-tenth of the U.S. population.
As co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, Senator LEVIN and I have worked together on legislation and other initiatives to protect this natural resource. We secured funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for water level gauges, a replacement ice-breaking vessel, and funding for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission for sea lamprey control. Additionally, Senator LEVIN and I met with the U.S. Trade Representative Office in an effort to prevent Great Lakes water from being diverted abroad. We worked to authorize the Great Lakes Basin Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Program in the 2002 Farm Bill, and three years ago, we joined our colleagues in the House to pass the Great Lakes Legacy Act. This legislation provides up to $50 million per year to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove contaminated sediments at Areas of Concern.
These steps are positive, but we are not keeping pace with the problems facing the Great Lakes--the Federal Government simply is not providing the funding to protect them. An April 2003 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the Federal Government spent roughly $745 million over the last ten years on Great Lakes restoration programs. Now consider that the GAO reported that the eight Great Lakes States spent $956 million during that same ten-year period.
There is ample evidence that this current level of commitment is simply not enough to address the challenges. In 2001, there were approximately 600 beach closings as a result of e-coli bacteria. Further, State and local health authorities issued approximately 1,400 fish consumption advisories in the Great Lakes. In 1978, the United States and Canada amended the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to give priority attention to 43 designated Areas of Concern. Since the signing, the Federal Government has not been able to remove any U.S. sites from the Areas of Concern list. Invasive species are one of the largest threats to the ecosystem and the $4.5 billion Great Lakes fishing industry. There are now over 160 aquatic invasive species threatening the Great Lakes. It is imperative that we fix these problems.
For several years, I have been calling for a plan to restore the Lakes. I have been urging the governors, mayors, the environmental community, and other regional interests to agree on a vision for the future of the Great Lakes--not just for the short-term, but for the long-term. It is time for us to come together to develop a plan and put it in place.
The bill we are introducing today builds upon the efforts by those in the Great Lakes states who are working with the congressional delegation and federal officials on the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration group. It provides the funding needed to implement their recommendations.
This legislation would provide the tools needed for the long-term future of the Great Lakes. First, our bill creates a $6 billion Great Lakes Restoration Grant Program to augment existing federal and state efforts to clean, protect, and restore the Great Lakes. An additional $600 million in annual funding will be appropriated through the EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office. The Program Office will provide grants to the Great Lakes States, municipalities, and other applicants in coordination with the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Advisory Board. This funding will provide the extra resources that existing programs do not have.
While the Great Lakes are a national resource, leaders in the region, not Washington bureaucrats, should set priorities and guide restoration efforts. That is why our bill requires close coordination between the EPA and state and regional interests before grants are released. The Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Advisory Board, led by the Great Lakes governors, will include mayors, federal agencies, Native American tribes, environmentalists, industry representatives, and Canadian observers. This Advisory Board will prioritize restoration projects, such as invasive species control and prevention, wetlands restoration, contaminated sediments cleanup, and water quality improvements. Additionally, this Advisory Board will provide recommendations on which grant applications to fund. The input from the Advisory Board ensures that regional leaders will be critical in determining the long-term future of the Great Lakes.
As the April 2003 GAO study reported, environmental restoration activities in the Great Lakes suffer from lack of coordination. The second goal of this legislation is the codification of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force to coordinate Federal activities in the Great Lakes region. The EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office would serve as the council leader, and participants would include key federal agencies involved in Great Lakes restoration efforts. The council would ensure that the efforts of federal agencies are coordinated, effective, and cost-efficient.
Lastly, this bill would help address a GAO recommendation that a monitoring system and environmental indicators be developed to measure progress on new and existing restoration programs in the Great Lakes.
Our bill is a major step in the right direction. I would again like to thank my colleague, Senator LEVIN, for his dedication to the Great Lakes and to their restoration. We need to continue to refocus and improve our efforts in order to reverse the trend of additional degradation of the Great Lakes. They are a unique natural resource for Ohio and the entire region--a resource that must be protected for future generations. I ask my colleagues to join me in support of this bill and in our efforts to help preserve and protect the long-term viability of our Great Lakes.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows: