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Higgins Calls for Action to Protect Great Lakes

Congressional Task Force Calls for Expediency to Block Invasive Species

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) is among 31 members of Congress, representing the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, sending a letter asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urging the use of newly released data to shorten the timeframe for action to protect the Great Lakes.  Higgins and his colleagues cite the report released last week by the Great Lakes Commission which makes recommendations toward the goal of stopping the spread of invasive species, including Asian carp.

The Army Corps is currently conducting a Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS).  Completion of the feasibility study is not anticipated until 2015.  Congressman Higgins and others on the Great Lakes Task force would like to see the devastating hazard to our Nation’s fresh waterways be addressed with greater expediency.

“The quickly approaching threat of invasive species is an urgent one, posing a danger to both our environmental and economic existence,” said Higgins.  “We can’t afford anything less than serious attention and swift action to address this critical matter.” 

Congressman Higgins also addressed the issue on the House Floor.  The text of his remarks is below: 
 
Mr. Speaker, the Great Lakes are the largest source of fresh water in the world, and they also support vital shipping and recreation jobs.  The fishery alone accounts for $7 billion in annual economic activity. 
 
But the Great Lakes face a very real threat from the Asian carp, which are progressing from the Mississippi River to the Illinois River and are nearing Lake Michigan. If this invasive species enters the Lakes it could decimate Great Lakes fishing and recreation. 
 
Last month, the Great Lakes Commission released a report recommending the construction of a barrier to separate the Mississippi River from Lake Michigan in order to protect the Lakes from Asian carp. I joined my colleagues from the Great Lakes Task Force in sending a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers asking them to consider this report as they study into the best ways to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
 
Mr. Speaker, Asian carp have not yet entered the Lakes but there are very real reasons for concern as scientists say that conditions in Lake Erie are perfect to support this species of fish. It is essential to our economy and our environment that we all work together to protect and restore this underappreciated asset. 

Congressman Higgins’ district borders Lake Erie.  He has been a staunch advocate for protection of the water and investments on the waterfront.  In 2008, the Brookings Institution released a report which concluded that Great Lakes Restoration efforts have the potential to create jobs, development, and increased property values that generate between 600 million and 1.1 billion dollars in the Buffalo region alone.  The Great Lakes represent the largest surface source of fresh water on this planet.