Statement by Senator Jim Inhofe,
Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, for the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water
Legislative Hearing on S. 525, the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003
As global trade increases, so do the number of ships entering United States’ ports. However, these ships not only carry freight, they come with unintended cargo, aquatic invasive species. The number of damaging aquatic invasive species has increased in tandem with globalization – having a negative impact on the United States economically as well as environmentally.
The introduction of such aquatic invasive species as the zebra mussel has had devastating repercussions. In the Great Lakes alone, it has cost millions annually to mitigate the problem of clogged intake valves. Since their introduction from the ballast water of ships, zebra mussels have spread to more than twenty states. I know my colleague and Great Lakes Congressional Member, Sen. Voinovich, has been working on this issue for Ohio for quite some time, and I look forward to my continued work with him to reauthorize the National Invasive Species Act.
When Congress passed the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANPCA) of 1990, the legislation focused on problems specific to the Great Lakes and encouraged increased cooperation between federal and state agencies. The reauthorization of this law, the National Invasive Species Act, took this effort one step further and expanded ballast water guidelines to the rest of the Nation. However, though these laws laid the foundation for mitigating the problem of aquatic invasive species, they failed to adequately address a number of issues that we hope to remedy with the upcoming reauthorization.
One of the difficulties of trying to limit the impact of these destructive exotics is that they do not recognize political boundaries. Therefore, cooperation and partnerships among not only the federal agencies, but the states as well, is critical to minimizing the effects of harmful aquatic invasive species. The National Invasive Species Council has strengthened the partnerships and increased communication between the federal agencies, but, as cited in the October 2001 GAO study, the federal government lacks a coordinated, comprehensive long-term plan.
Though I support the reauthorization of NANPCA, I have a number of concerns regarding some of the language in S. 525. It is my hope that today’s hearing will provide much needed insight into how the reauthorization should proceed. It is important that we tread carefully if we decide upon comprehensive reform. States play an integral part in controlling invasive species, and it is critical that they are given adequate flexibility to address problems affecting their region. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses to provide insight into how best to approach this complicated issue and also to highlight their concerns with the proposed legislation.