H.R. 5430

Public Water Supply Invasive Species Compliance Act of 2016


June 23, 2016

The Department of the Interior appreciates the opportunity to present its views on H.R. 5430, a bill that would exempt from the Lacey Act and the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 (Lacey Act), certain water transfers between the States of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. 

H.R. 5430 proposes to exempt from Titles 16 and 18 of the Lacey Act from any transfer of public water supplies containing a prohibited species between Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, where all prohibited species in the water transferred are located in both of the public water supplies between which the water is directly transferred or where the water is transferred in a closed conveyance system directly to treatment facilities, where all prohibited species contained in the water transferred will be extirpated.  Consistent with the Administration’s previous testimony we have provided on similar legislation, the Department opposes this proposed statutory exemption from the Lacey Act. 

The proposed exemption under H.R. 5430 would apply to the interstate transport of federally listed injurious species listed under Title 18 USC 42 (Injurious provisions of the Lacey Act) and to the interstate movement of state invasive species under certain conditions under the Lacey Act.  

The Department recognizes that zebra mussels are among the most economically and ecologically damaging invasive species in the U.S. and are rapidly spreading into western U.S. waters.  A significant vector for the spread of zebra mussels is the movement of boats from one water basin to another.  When boats are the vector, boat cleaning and inspections are often the most effective means of preventing the spread of invasive species, the Lacey Act provides an essential back-stop to prevent further infestation of zebra mussels.  The Department, however, understands the challenges facing water users and utilities in dealing with mussel infestation while also working to provide much needed water.   We welcome the opportunity to work with the Committee to ensure that water can continue to be transported across state lines to water users, including farmers, municipalities and endangered species dependent on deliveries, without risking the spread of harmful species.   

The prohibitions on interstate transport of injurious and invasive species under the Lacey Act help to prevent the introduction, establishment and spread of harmful species, which can cost local economies hundreds of millions of dollars each year.  

For example, in the Great Lakes, zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), which were listed under the Lacey Act as injurious wildlife by Congress in 1990, have overwhelmed municipal and industrial water system infrastructure, including electric power generating stations, irrigation systems, and water supplies.  The cost to just control zebra mussels in water intake pipes in the Great Lakes is estimated by the Sea Grant Program at the University of Wisconsin to be $250 million a year .  In addition, zebra mussels adversely affect the aquatic ecosystem in which they become established, harming valuable commercial and recreational fisheries.  

Despite the cooperative action of the Service, states, tribes, Federal agencies, and other partners to prevent it, these mussels have crossed the 100th Meridian and have been documented in several western states.  Over $13 million has been spent by our State partners annually to prevent further invasive mussel spread into the Pacific Northwest.  Preventing the establishment and spread of invasive species, however, is far less expensive than managing these species, once they are established.  For example, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region has estimated that the costs of failing to prevent an invasion of Dreissenid mussels into the Pacific Northwest could exceed $500 million annually for the four Northwest states and western Canadian provinces.

By exempting the interstate transport of species otherwise prohibited under the Lacey Act, H.R. 5430 risks undermining the Acts’ effectiveness as tools to prevent the spread of harmful invasive species.  Although the bill, in part, proposes to exempt from these laws the transfers of water that are limited to those between already infested waters, it would allow such transfers to occur in a manner other than through a closed conveyance. It is not clear how such infested waters could be secured, during such a transfer, to prevent unintentional spread of harmful species. It is also not clear whether all harmful species transported through a closed conveyance to an uninfested water body could be 100% destroyed without compromising the transported waters for human use. With or without treatments, the movement of infested waters could result in the unintentional spread of harmful species into bodies of water and waterways between a public water supply in one state and a receiving public water supply in another state.

Although the Department recognizes that the nation faces an ongoing challenge to meet the growing need for water resources and recognizes that this may require the transport of water across state lines, we need to ensure that it does not contribute to the introduction, establishment, and spread of invasive species in the region.

  1. University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute webpage:
  2.  Advancing a Regional Defense against Dreissenids in the Pacific Northwest A REPORT PREPARED BY T HE PACIFIC NORTHWEST ECONOMIC REGION AND PACIFIC STATES M ARINE FISHERIES COMM ISSION (http://www.pnwer.org/uploads/2/3/2/9/23295822/advancing_a_regional_defense_against_dreissenids_in_the_pacific_northwestfinal.pdf), p. 4.


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