Statement of Senator James Jeffords

Hearing on S. 525, National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003

June 17, 2003

 

            Good morning.  And let me welcome all of our witnesses this morning.  In particular, I would like to welcome Senator Levin, who has been a long-time champion on the issue of invasive species, and all issues that will keep those Great Lakes as beautiful as Vermont’s Lake Champlain.

 

            I would also like to welcome Michael Hauser from Montpelier, Vermont, who will be speaking on one of the later panels.

 

            The waters of the United States continue to face threats from aquatic invasive species.  Invasive species take both an economic and an environmental toll.  The United States and Canada are spending $14 million a year just to try to control sea lamprey, a species that has invaded Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes. 

 

            The environmental costs are also staggering.  Invasive species usually have high reproductive rates, they disperse easily, and can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, making them very difficult to eradicate.  They often lack predators in their new environment and out-compete native species for prey and breeding sites.

 

            S. 525, the “National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003", builds on existing programs and would establish a mandatory National Ballast Water Management Program and minimum requirements for all ships operating in the U.S. waters.  Ballast water is considered the major pathway for invasive species introduction.

 

            S. 525 would also address potential introduction of aquatic invasive species by other pathways, including the pet trade.  The discovery last year of “snakehead fish” in nearby Maryland likely came from the release of aquarium fish.

 

            While this legislation deals with aquatic invasive species and calls for guidelines to determine whether importing a live organism should be allowed, the recent outbreak of monkeypox, which has been traced to the importation of African rodents, is further evidence that we must be vigilant when permitting imports than can harm not only the environment, but human health.

 

            The legislation also increases funding for dispersal barrier projects and research to prevent the interbasin transfer of organisms.  This is of particular importance in my state of Vermont.  We, along with New York, are home to one of this country’s most beautiful lakes - Lake Champlain.  However, zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil, water chestnuts and sea lamprey have invaded Lake Champlain and are having a devastating impact.

 

 

 

 

            Like most who visit Lake Champlain, these species want to call it home, but we cannot compromise the health of the lake.

 

            Examining the feasibility and effectiveness of a dispersal barrier in the Lake Champlain Canal to control invasive species in the lake is another way to prevent further destructive dispersal of these species.

 

            Thank you, Senator Crapo, for holding this hearing today and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.