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Great Lakes legislation

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Congress has been quite active this winter in terms of Great Lakes legislation.  This brief action memo outlines three major initiatives that would benefit from advisor consideration.

 

1.      Funding for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has been stagnant during the past few years due to sequestration and budget constraints.  As such, the commission is in serious danger of losing ground in sea lamprey control (we are at twenty and thirty year lows in Lakes Michigan and Huron respectively, at target in Lake Ontario, and trending downward in Lake Superior).  Moreover, we need additional funds to address the frustratingly high sea lamprey numbers in Lake Erie.  The recent budget deal in Washington presents an opportunity to restore Great Lakes Fishery Commission funding.

 

Funding, currently at around $21.2 million from the US, does not allow the Commission to implement a full program to protect the $7 billion fishery or to address many pressing threats to the fishery.  For example, independent researchers have concluded that the Great Lakes require at least 25% more lamprey control to bring lamprey abundancies to levels optimal to achieve state, provincial, and tribal fishery objectives.

 

The Commission has requested the US increase its base budget contribution from $21.2 to $22.8 million for FY 2017. The Commission also is seeking $3.8 million of capital funding per year, for four years, to deal with dilapidated infrastructure used for sea lamprey and other invasive species control.

 

Bob Lambe and I have spent three weeks in Ottawa and, by end of February, three weeks in DC, communicating budget needs to elected officials and bureaucrats.  We have been well-received, but they always need to hear the message from others.  ACTION:  Please contact your representative and senators and ask for the above-listed funding amounts for the GLFC.  Funding comes from the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, “International Fisheries Commissions†line. (It is important to note the funding line.)

 

2.      Next week, Congressman Mike Quigley from Illinois and Congressman Dan Benishek from Michigan will introduce bi-partisan legislation called the Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization Act.  This bill authorizes the work of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center.  The center, among other things, operates research vessels in each Great Lake (the Kiyi in Lake Superior, the Sturgeon and Arcticus in Lakes Huron and Michigan, the Muskie in Lake Erie, and the Kahoin Lake Ontario), to assess the forage base.  That information is used by your management agency in key decision-making, such as stocking levels.  The center also contributes to fishery restoration, ecosystem understanding, and invasive species science.  The GLFC has long been a strong supporter of the center’s work.

 

Amazingly, the center has never been explicitly authorized by Congress.  This lack of authorization has left the Great Lakes at a significant disadvantage in funding for the center’s essential operations and in the application of new technology.  Attached is a sample, generic letter of support for the legislation, and a summary fact sheet. ACTION:  Consider having your club or organization endorse the legislation.  Letters should be sent to your congressman and senators, with CCs to representative Quigley (I can help pass along your letter if you like).

 

3.      Recently, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015, introduced by Congressman David Joyce of Ohio and Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, has been on the move in Congress and is on the verge of consideration in the full House and Senate.  This legislation authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).  Advisors passed a resolution during the previous annual meeting in support of the GLRI; the secretariat made the advisors’ support known to members of Congress.  The resolution is attached for your information.   ACTION:  Consider writing your representative and senators in support of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015 (H.R. 223 in the House and S. 1024 in the Senate).  Urge Congress to take up the legislation immediately.  It is close to going to the full House and Senate, and a nudge from advisors would be appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Generic fishery act support letter...

 

 

 

 

The Great Lakes Fishery Authorization Act (GLFRA) authorizes the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) to conduct essential fishery assessments and undertake critical scientific research into Great Lakes ecosystem functions. 

 

Great Lakes management and restoration is a group effort, and the GLSC has a critical role to play in the achievement of shared goals.  State, tribal, provincial, and federal agencies conduct their Great Lakes science cooperatively and all agencies routinely share information to leverage resources and to manage using the best information available.  The GLSC fills an important niche by investigating ecosystem function, conducting deepwater science, and undertaking the fishery assessments that undergird most day-to-day management decisions.

 

This legislation is needed because, unlike facilities in other parts of the country and in other agencies, the GLSC has operated without an explicit authorization, instead relying on base appropriations from the U.S. Geological Survey.  This situation has undermined focus and continuity of the GLSC’s program.  The unreliable funding stream for the GLSC has left the center under-equipped to deliver on the science that is so badly needed in the Great Lakes region.

 

The GLFRA remedies the situation by authorizing the appropriations necessary for the GLSC to execute a comprehensive, multi-lake, freshwater fisheries science program; to coordinate its work with other governments so that management is cooperative; and to work with academia and Canadian interests in the most border-blind manner possible.  The GLSC, under this new authority, will be able to conduct deepwater ecosystem science, shed light on biological and food web components, help us better understand fish movement and behavior, conduct fish habitat investigations, and contribute to invasive species knowledge and management.  Moreover, the GLFRA will encourage the GLSC to integrate new technologies for fisheries science into the basin’s research and management structure.

 

Thank you, again, for introducing the GLFRA. We very much appreciate your commitment to a healthy Great Lakes!

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