Thursday, February 25, 2010

Senate Hearing On Asian Carp Control

Feb 25: The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Water and Power, Chaired by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) held a hearing to examine the science and policy behind the Federal framework and non-Federal efforts to prevent introduction of the aquatic invasive Asian carp into the Great Lakes. Witnesses and organizations testifying at the hearing included: Nancy Sutley, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ); United States Geological Survey (USGS); Ken DeBeaussaert, Michigan Department of Natural Resources & Environment (MDNRE); Illinois Department of Natural Resources; Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks; Supply Chain Management Programs Wayne State University; Illinois Chamber of Commerce; the National Wildlife Federation & Healing Our Waters (HOW)-Great Lakes Coalition.
    In an opening statement, Chairman Stabenow described the seriousness of the threat of the Asian Carp invasion and said, "I have introduced S.2946, the CARP ACT (along with Senators Brown, Schumer, Gillibrand, Franken, and Feingold), that includes many of the same short-term actions included in the framework, with one notable exception: our bill calls for the immediate closure of the Chicago canal locks until a permanent strategy is developed. For thousands of years, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River ecosystems were separated, until the construction of artificial canals and locks connecting them. Continuing threats of invasive species, especially the Asian carp, make it clear that we need to return to a permanent separation of the two ecosystems. This strategy was endorsed Monday by the Great Lakes Commission, a group made up of the eight states and two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes."
    CEQ's Sutley testified that the recently announced Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework (Framework) is "guided by the latest scientific research, encompasses more than 25 short and long-term actions at an estimated cost of $78.5 million to keep Asian carp from becoming self-sustaining in the Great Lakes. The scale of the effort described in the Framework is unprecedented for invasive species control, unifying Federal, State, and local action and introducing a multi-tiered defense of the Great Lakes to immediately prevent Asian carp from developing self-sustaining populations in the Great Lakes while longer term control methods are developed." She concluded saying, "the best scientists have said that we can be successful in this effort and prevent Asian Carp from invading the Great Lakes."
    The Illinois Chamber of Commerce submitted 23-pages of testimony and said it "shares the concern of the State of Michigan and others who want this invasive species stopped before it can enter the Great Lakes. We offer recommendations, which have been submitted to the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Asian Carp Workgroup, for action to stop the Asian Carp. We believe these suggestions can protect Lake Michigan from an invasion of Asian Carp via Illinois waterways and simultaneously provide for commerce to continue uninterrupted. . . This discussion needs to move from the courtroom to the conference room. The common objective is to stop the carp. However, in the process we do not believe the Solutions should pit Illinois Tow Boat operators like John and Jacque Kindra of Kindra Lake Towing of South Chicago against Michigan fisherman and Charter Boat Captains
like Paul Jensen of Muskegon. . ."
    The HOW Coalition called on Congress to declare the Asian carp an imminent threat to the Great Lakes and direct Federal agencies to separate the "carp-infested" Mississippi River system from Lake Michigan. HOW said, "Ecological separation is essential for the Great Lakes -- it is the only way of safeguarding the lakes from Asian carp. Anything short of separation will fail sooner or later."
Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and a webcast (click here). Access the opening statement from Senator Stabenow (click here).

2009 Summary Of Great Lakes Ballast Water Management Report

Feb 25: The U.S. Coast Guard has announced that the 2009 Summary of Great Lakes Seaway Ballast Water Management report compiled by the Great Lakes Ballast Water Working Group (BWWG) is now available. The BWWG is comprised of representatives of the Coast Guard, Transport Canada - Marine Safety, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

    According to a brief announcement, "Preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes through stricter ballast water standards and a comprehensive enforcement policy is a top priority for the U. S. Coast Guard. In 2009, 100% of ships bound for the Great Lakes via the Seaway received a ballast tank exam. A total of 5450 ballast tanks onboard 295 different ships were sampled and had a 97.9% compliance rate. Ships that failed to properly manage their ballast tanks were required to either retain the ballast water and residuals on board, treat the ballast water in an environmentally sound and approved manner, or return to sea to conduct a ballast water exchange. The BWWG anticipates continued high ship compliance rates for the 2010 navigation season.
    The report indicates that, "Today, ballast water management requirements in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway System are among the most stringent in the world. Mandatory ballast water regulations that include saltwater flushing, detailed documentation requirements, increased inspections, and civil penalties provide a comprehensive regulatory enforcement regime to protect the Great Lakes Seaway System. USCG regulations, and the Seaway no ballast onboard (NOBOB) regulation, require all vessels destined for Seaway and Great Lakes ports from beyond the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to exchange all their ballast tanks at sea. As a result, the risk of a ballast water mediated introduction of aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes has been mitigated to extremely low levels."
    Access the announcement (click here). Access the 13-page summary report (click here).