Congressman Rick Nolan

Representing the 8th District of Minnesota
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Nolan Pushes Army Corps for Solution to Invasive Zebra Mussels

Jul 12, 2017
Press Release

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan today urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to double down on their efforts to combat the expansion of zebra mussels that have contaminated waters in Minnesota and across the United States in addition to following up on his 2014 mandate for the Army Corps to focus on aquatic invasive species.

All accoss the country – particularly in Minnesota and the 8th District – zebra mussels are contaminating waters and causing terrible damage. They are clogging pipes and irrigation systems, harming outdoor recreation and causing injuries, reducing shipping efficiency, and taking vital food sources from native species in addition to killing snails, claims, and loons through the spread of botulism.

As the primary author of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act’s section regarding invasive species (Section 1039(d)(3)(D)), Nolan said: “I am concerned there appears to be a lack of meaningful development pertaining to the addition of “aquatic invasive species” to the Army Corps’ Aquatic Plant Control Program. This vitally important expansion and broadening of the Aquatic Plant Control Program enhanced the Army Corps’ ongoing efforts to control noxious aquatic plant and animal growths in our Nation’s waterways.”

Nolan continued: “A general review from the Corps’ Jacksonville District website – which I understand to be the home branch of operations for the Aquatic Plant Control Program – does not appear to reference this update in authority at all. Therefore, I respectfully request the Army Corps reevaluate this guidance by the end of this Fiscal Year and take other actions to include this new Water Resources Reform and Development Act authority on aquatic invasive species. I further ask that as this program evolves its new authority, zebra mussel research and abatement be a top priority of the Army Corps.”

The full text of the letter is available below.

Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy

Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)

108 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC  20310

Dear Assistant Secretary Darcy,

I am writing today to inquire about the ongoing issue of zebra mussel contamination in waters in Minnesota and the United States, and the Army Corps of Engineers’ (Army Corps) lack of progress in implementing Section 1039(d)(3)(D) of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA).

As the primary author of the section noted, I am concerned there appears to be a lack of meaningful development pertaining to the addition of “aquatic invasive species” to the Army Corps’ Aquatic Plant Control Program (APCP). This vitally important expansion and broadening of the APCP enhanced the Army Corps’ ongoing efforts to control noxious aquatic plant and animal growths in our Nation’s waterways. The APCP program was funded at $9 million in the FY2017 Omnibus (P.L.115-31), well below the authorized level of $40 million.

Additionally, it is my understanding that on March 18, 2016, a memorandum from Edward E. Belk, Jr., (Chief, Operations and Regulatory Division, Directorate of Civil Works) was released to the Commander of the Northwestern Division, District Commands, and Chiefs in Operations Divisions and Districts as implementation guidance section 1039 of WRRDA.

While I greatly appreciate the Army Corps issuing this guidance and briefly referencing this provision, the document primarily focuses on the watercraft inspection stations also authorized by Section 1039 of WRRDA, and ultimately provides no direction for the agency to more fully tackle the problems associated with invasive animal species under this new authorization. In fact, a general review from the Corps’ Jacksonville District website - which I understand to be the home branch of operations for the APCP - does not appear to reference this update in authority at all.

Therefore, I respectfully request the Army Corps reevaluate this guidance by the end of this Fiscal Year and take other actions to include this new WRRDA authority on aquatic invasive species. I further ask that as this program evolves with its new authority, zebra mussel research and abatement be a top priority for the Army Corps. I will be working with my colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee to ensure the Army Corps has the funding it needs to implement this request.

Another area in need of greater attention from both Congress and the Army Corps is the Aquatic Nuisance Control Research (ANCR) program, funded through the Operations and Maintenance appropriation. This account received $675,000 in the FY2017 Omnibus.

Annual funding under the ANCR is used to address invasive aquatic species that negatively impact the Nation’s waterways infrastructure, the Nation’s outdoor recreational activities, and associated resources including development of control strategies for navigation structures, hydropower and other utilities, vessels and dredges, and water treatment, irrigation, and other water control structures.

In FY2017, ANCR was expected to initiate evaluation of new UV technologies for controlling invasive mussels and other biofouling organisms, which are problematic to Army Corps infrastructure (hydropower and navigation). This method has been examined at other federal sites, including the Davis Dam in Arizona, which is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. I commend the Army Corps for examining this technology, but recognize budget limitations constrain the widespread testing and application of this control method.

I encourage the Army Corps to look at testing this technology in a variety of conditions and climates, including the cold water of Lake Superior and the Duluth-Superior Harbor, where zebra mussels were first found in 1989, and have since contaminated approximately 130 bodies of water in the State of Minnesota. Their presence in the Lake Superior Basin, the Mississippi River Watershed, and all around the country is increasing at alarming degrees. Once a female zebra mussel settles near a body of water, she has the ability to produce 100,000-500,000 eggs per year, which causes millions of zebra mussels to be born every year.

As a result, they have: clogged irrigation intakes and pipes; attached to boat motors and hauls, reducing performance and shipping efficiency; killed snails and clams as well as over 10,000 loons from botulism; smothered rocks, swim rafts and ladders causing people to cut their feet; and eaten food particles, decreasing the available food for native species. This negatively impacts our Nation’s economy, outdoor recreation industry, environmental sustainability, and water safety.

Thus, it is vital our country takes every action necessary to halt the growth and spread of zebra mussels in the United States. By reevaluating the Army Corps’ guidance to ensure it reflects ways to address invasive animal species - including zebra mussels – we can take a step in the right direction of achieving real results.

Thank you for your attention to this matter; I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

 

Richard M. Nolan

Member of Congress

 

cc:  Scott Pruitt, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency