Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords, I-Vt.
EPW Committee Hearing on Great Lakes Regional Collaboration
Good morning. The Great Lakes are the nation’s largest fresh water reservoir. This is a resource we need to protect. As you will see on this map of Vermont and New York, Lake Champlain has two hydrologic connections with the Great Lakes ecosystem. The first is along the Canadian border through the St. Lawrence into Lake Ontario. The second is along the southern part of the lake where it connects to the Great Lakes through the canal system. These lakes are all part of the same ecosystem, and face many of the same problems. For example, there are 48 invasive aquatic species in the Lake Champlain Basin, and 13 of them have come from the Great Lakes. It is imperative that we enact legislation to comprehensively address invasive species this Congress. As we move forward on Great Lakes restoration, we must incorporate Lake Champlain into the process. We do not want to make large investments in the Great Lakes or Lake Champlain, only to find that a failure to comprehensively address a particular issue limited our success. We know that water quality problems do not respect state or national boundaries. No program knows this better than the Great Lakes. I urge the witnesses here today and the members of the Committee to keep Lake Champlain, the eastern end of the Great Lakes ecosystem, in mind as we move forward. Mr. Chairman, I want to take a minute to identify something else these two ecosystems have in common: They are both starved for money. In the face of EPA’s own study showing a spending shortfall of $270 billion for water infrastructure needs, this Administration continues to cut spending. This year’s proposed budget would cut the Clean Water State Revolving Fund by almost 50 percent from what annual appropriations were when President Bush took office. At our Committee’s hearing on the EPA budget, I said that this budget is like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. We cannot resolve the problems in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain by ignoring them. We must turn the corner on clean water funding. Before closing, I am pleased to welcome Mr. Bill Howland, the Director of the Lake Champlain Basin Program, who will be testifying on our last panel today. Bill’s experience leading efforts to restore Lake Champlain is unmatched, and I look forward to hearing his thoughts on the Great Lakes strategy and the role of Lake Champlain.