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Great Lakes Article:

Key legislation still pending as 107th Congress draws to a close
Aquatic Nuisance Species: The time to act is now!
Kathe Glassner-Shwayder
The Great Lakes Commission

Ann Arbor, Mich. -- With time running out for the 107th Congress, the Great Lakes Commission is urging it not to forget the acute threat that aquatic nuisance species pose to the Great Lakes and the rest of the nation's ecosystems.

The Commission is calling on Congress to expedite reauthorization of the National Invasive Species Act (NISA), the nation's primary legislation for the prevention and control of invasive aquatic nuisance species (ANS). With only a few short weeks in the lame-duck session following the Nov. 5, 2002 election, any legislation not completed then will have to start the process anew when the 108th Congress convenes in January.

"We can't afford to delay," said Sam Speck, chair of the Great Lakes Commission and director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. "With the Great Lakes facing the threat of a potentially disastrous invasion by the Asian carp, and the continued spread and proliferation of destructive invaders such as the zebra and quagga mussels and the round goby, we must have this legislation now."

In calling for passage of the new legislation, known as the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act (NAISA) of 2002, the Commission encouraged Congress to include a series of measures recommended by the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species. These measures, which directly address prevention and control measures in the Great Lakes, include:
  • Investing in programs that will prevent new ANS introductions into Great Lakes waters, such as an improved, more durable electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

  • Funding state ANS management plans and regional ANS panels, including the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species. Since invasive species wreak havoc regardless of political boundaries, such regional panels address the critical need to manage aquatic invasive species on a state, regional and national scale.

  • Establishing national standards for preventing the introduction and spread of ANS through ballast water discharges.

  • Establishing a process to identify the most likely pathways for ANS introduction, so that tools can be developed to block those pathways.

  • Developing a rapid response program to address and minimize new ANS introductions.

  • Raising the profile of information, education and outreach programs aimed at raising awareness of how officials, businesses and the general public can help prevent the introduction and spread of ANS.

Three bills are now before Congress. In the House, reauthorization provisions are contained in a bill (H.R. 5396) introduced by Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, while Rep. Vernon Ehlers of Michigan introduced a separate bill (H.R. 5395) on research. The Senate is considering a related bill (S. 2964) introduced by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan.

The call comes at the time when the Commission is beginning work on a system to map and track ANS invasions in Michigan, providing resource managers with a new tool to prevent and control such invasions.

The Commission will develop a map-based database, commonly known as a geographic information system (GIS), that will provide timely and reliable information on Michigan ANS invasions. Accessible via the Internet, the system will assist the state's resource managers and decisionmakers in coordinating their efforts and help keep ANS invasions out of uninfested waters. It will also provide a basis for further applications of the decision-support tool on a broader, regional scale.

The new project, funded by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) through the Michigan Great Lakes Protection Fund, complements a growing suite of Great Lakes Commission projects aimed at ANS prevention and control. These include development of an early detection and monitoring program, and a rapid response project, both funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Great Lakes National Program Office (EPA-GLNPO).

The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Samuel W. Speck (Ohio), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency created by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials, and governors' appointees from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a "Declaration of Partnership." The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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