invasive species in the Great Lakes
Grand Valley Lanthorn
Grand Rapids Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers has sponsored
legislation to control and research invasive species that
make their way each year to our Great Lakes, thus invading
space and killing off native species.
These invasive species -- which include lampreys, alewives,
goby and zebra mussels -- pose several threats to the
lakes. They take hold and multiply in ecosystems foreign
to them, thus competing with the native fish, plants and
algae thriving there.
The most serious threat these invasive species pose would
be extinction of the native species. According to the
Aquatic Invasive Species Research Act drafted by Ehlers,
invasive species are the second most serious threat to
endangered species with habitat loss being first.
Annually, invasive species cost the United States about
$137 billion in losses and damages. Ehlersí proposed bill,
which the House Science Committee passed unanimously,
would allow for about $43.5 million each year from 2004
to 2008 to help control the problematic invasive species
population, as well as boosting research on detection,
prevention and control of invasive species.
"Even as we work on this legislation, invasive species
are crossing our borders, invading our lands and waterways
and causing us enormous economic and environmental harm,"
Ehlers said earlier this summer in a press release. "Iím
pleased to bring this legislation before the committee
because it addresses this problem by providing a comprehensive
research program focused on informing and improving the
management of aquatic invasive species."
According to Bob Riechel, the West Michigan Lake Shore
park supervisor, invasive species have reached Lake Michigan
and the other Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway
by attaching themselves to the hulls of ships and tanks
passing through. Riechel said the most prevalent invasive
species in Lake Michigan currently are lampreys, alewives,
goby and zebra mussels. None are easy to control and even
more difficult to rid from the waters.
"The lampreys kill our salmon by attaching themselves
to the sides of the fish," Riechel said. "Goby
out compete our native fish in Lake Michigan. The zebra
mussels are beneficial in the sense that they are cleaning
up our lakes, but they are causing problems by clogging
our water filters."
According to The Aquatic Invasive Species Research Act,
zebra mussels alone have cost the Great Lakes basin $3
billion over the last 10 years for new filtration equipment
and cleaning the water intake pipes. Sea lampreys cost
the Great Lakes about $10 to $15 million annually to control.
Ehlersí legislation will combat the problem involving
invasive species through extensive surveys and experimentation
by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
the United States Geological Survey and the Smithsonian
Environmental Research Center.
The Environmental Protection Agency will run a development,
demonstration, and verification program to develop technologies
to control and suppress invasive species, while educating
federal, state and local managers on how to combat the
Also planned in Ehlersí legislation is a research program
to support the Coast Guard in its attempt to reduce the
risk of invasive species coming to unnatural habitats
by way of ships, a grant program from the National Science
Foundation to support research in taxonomy and systematics
and adequate funds to conduct any necessary research.
This way, policy-makers can effectively make decisions
to reduce the threat of invasive species in our Great