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Jaime Herrera Beutler Champions Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention in Water Infrastructure Bill that Passes House
Effort will protect hydropower infrastructure, salmon recovery, river operators from damage caused by quagga and zebra mussels
Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA) that steps up protection on the Columbia River system against aquatic invasive species via an amendment successfully championed by Jaime Herrera Beutler.
The WRDA bill authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain our national waterways infrastructure, vital to economic growth and targeted flood prevention. Jaime led the effort to speed up the utilization of funds that have already been approved for invasive species prevention, ensuring this funding would quickly be applied to support watercraft inspection stations along the Columbia River.
The impacts of a quagga and zebra mussel invasion of the Columbia River system would be devastating. According to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the potential costs of a quagga mussel introduction into the Pacific Northwest has been estimated at more than $500 million annually.
Last night, Jaime successfully defended her amendment on the U.S. House floor (click here to watch). A transcript of her speech is below.
The WRDA bill also provides funding for maintenance and improvements to local ports by phasing in full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, money collected for harbor and channel operations maintenance and dredging. It also includes a 10% of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will be set aside for small ports like those in Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties and along the Columbia River.
“My amendment is a simple technical correction to clarify Congressional intent to assist northwestern states in prevention and monitoring of aquatic invasive species.
“Western states are seeing a troubling spread of Quagga and Zebra mussels, which are an invasive species that quickly destroy infrastructure such as hydropower, water supply, filtration systems, and fisheries. Once this species becomes established and spreads, it is difficult and costly to eradicate. In some states, invasive mussels are already costing industries and businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and repair.
“For communities in the Columbia River Basin, an infestation would be devastating to production of clean, renewable hydropower, which means steep rate hikes for families and businesses that are located in our region and are currently thriving due to the low-cost of energy. Communities would also suffer severe damages to fisheries and boats putting all users and recreators of the Columbia and Snake River systems at risk.
“Prevention is the first line of defense, and the cheapest tool to use against invasive species. Watercraft inspection stations are particularly crucial in successful monitoring and detection. These stations intercept thousands of boats from all over the country to inspect and decontaminate.
“This is why Congress authorized funds under the 2014 WRDA to support watercraft inspection stations that protect the Columbia River Basin from mussel invasion. Unfortunately, these funds have yet to actually reach the stations due to ambiguity in the law.
“This amendment simply clarifies that funds authorized under WRDA are intended to assist in establishing new watercraft inspection stations AND support coverage for existing stations in northwest states.
“Mr. Chair, this is a good-government amendment to ensure that federal funds are being used for the purposes for which Congress intended.”