Bennet, Daines Introduce Bill to Stop the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species Across the West

CPW ANS Inspector Travis Beam checks a boat for invasive mussels at the Loma Point of Entry on May 15.

The Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act Strengthens Preventative Efforts to Protect Water Infrastructure and Ecosystems from Invasive Mussels

Recently, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced the Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act, legislation to slow the movement of aquatic invasive species, like zebra and quagga mussels, into Colorado, Montana, and other Western States.

“With the American West’s water supply already strained, we have to do everything we can to protect the water resources that are vital to our communities, local economies, and outdoor recreation,” said Bennet.“Our bipartisan legislation will help Colorado keep harmful, invasive mussels out of our water and help to ensure it’s free from contamination.”

“Montana’s rivers and lakes are a key part of our communities and our recreation economy, but aquatic invasive species threaten these thriving ecosystems. It’s critical we empower Montana’s local communities with the tools and resources they need to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species that have the potential to devastate Montana’s water infrastructure, agriculture, recreation economy, and pristine waterways valued by all Montanans,” said Daines.

Aquatic invasive species pose a significant threat to Western rivers and reservoirs. Once established, these intruders are nearly impossible to eradicate and wreak havoc on crucial water infrastructure, limit recreation opportunities, and harm ecosystems and local economies. As invasive mussels spread across the West, preventative measures – like watercraft inspection and decontamination stations – are key to limiting their spread.

The Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act would:

  • Strengthen prevention efforts by providing the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) explicit authority to partner with states and municipalities to fund watercraft inspection and decontamination stations;
  • Provide all federal agencies who participate in the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force the same authorities to limit the movement of invasive species into and out of U.S. waters, eliminating problematic differences between the various agencies;
  • Ensure that all at-risk basins are eligible and prioritized for watercraft inspection and decontamination funding.

“Colorado’s multi-jurisdictional watercraft inspection and decontamination program has been highly effective in detecting invasive quagga and zebra mussels before they’ve had an opportunity to spread or inflict costly damage to infrastructure within our state,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “We commend Senator Bennet’s continued championship of legislation to expand collaboration between state and federal partners, which will be critical to preventing these harmful species from taking root in western waterways.”

“This is a classic: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Doug Kemper, Executive Director of the Colorado Water Congress. “The spread of invasive mussel species continues to be a risk to water bodies throughout the nation and will have a significant impact for all water supplies and infrastructure, including the water projects that were built by the Bureau of Reclamation. Colorado has been proactive in developing and expanding the inspection and decontamination program over the last 13 years and has brought different stakeholders and interests together to support and commit to the protection of water infrastructure and reservoirs against infestation. This bill will provide the necessary authorization, and funding, and allow additional partnerships to be developed to support these programs on federal reservoirs, where the inspection and decontaminations are highly effective at preventing the spread of mussels. We applaud the efforts of Senators Bennet and Daines to face this threat head-on with a bill to authorize a clear and consistent role as a federal partner in federal water resource projects.”

“Backcountry Hunters & Anglers applauds Senator Bennet and Senator Daines for their leadership in combating the threat that aquatic invasive species pose to western waters. By improving coordination between agencies and partners for the inspection and decontamination of watercraft, the Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act will help prevent the spread of invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels. These invasive species quickly overwhelm native species at the detriment of the ecosystem and once established are nearly impossible to eradicate. We must act now,” said Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers President, and CEO.

In the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), Bennet secured a provision to protect Colorado’s watersheds from invasive species. That bill directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to establish, operate, or fund watercraft inspection stations in a number of Colorado river basins. Bennet first introduced this provision as an amendment to the 2016 WRDA.

Following the August 2017 detection of quagga mussel larvae in the Green Mountain Reservoir, Bennet led the Colorado delegation in sending a letter to then-U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urging a rapid response. In 2010, Bennet introduced the Invasive Species Emergency Response Fund Act to establish a loan fund for Western states to combat invasive species.

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