JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT ESTABLISHING AN AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES MANAGEMENT GRANT AND PREVENTION AND EDUCATION PROGRAM.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill establishes a grant and educational program to assist in the management and prevention of aquatic invasive species (AIS). AIS pose a threat to the ecosystems and economic interests of Connecticut. This bill seeks to prevent and reverse the negative impacts associated with AIS.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Robert J. Klee, Interim Commissioner, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP):
Commissioner Klee submitted testimony recognizing “the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) that pose a serious threat to the native ecosystems and economic interests” of Connecticut. The Commissioner states that the most pertinent needs for an AIS program are for prevention and long-term control, and that resources should be focused on “species that can be effectively prevented, eliminated or managed.”
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Senator Michael McLachlan: Senator McLachlan submitted testimony in support of the bill, as it provides grants to municipalities to assist in managing AIS, which negatively impact the state's lakes. He stated that preventing AIS from entering bodies of water and controlling their spread is critical to protecting the state's water ecosystems.
Kathryn Dube, Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST): Ms. Dube testified that AIS are growing rapidly and “threaten the viability of” the “waterways throughout the state.”
Bruce Fletcher, New Britain & East Haddam: Mr. Fletcher submitted testimony that Connecticut's commitment to dealing with AIS “pales” in comparison to nearby states. He notes three important pieces of the bill: grants to aid communities in dealing with infestations; increasing the number of launch monitors to cover boat launch ramps; and, rapid response action for new infestations.
Elizabeth Gara, Connecticut Water Works Association (CWWA): Ms. Gara submitted testimony stating that AIS are an increasing concern to water companies, as they can create “permanent and serious problems for the state's public water supplies.” She states that “prevention is the key to controlling the spread of invasive species.”
Phyllis Schaer, Chairman, Candlewood Lake Authority: Ms. Schaer submitted testimony that AIS “cause major ecological, economic, and recreational damage to CT's waters” if left unchecked. She added that AIS can pose a threat to maintaining “safe, reliable, and economically sustainable fresh water supplies,” constrain industries, have a detrimental impact on real estate values, and cause issues with water and power production. There are also inland threats associated with AIS, such as cyanotoxins that pose a risk to human health. He references that some studies show that the costs of preemptive action can be twenty times less expensive than combatting an active infestation.
Jim McAlister, Chair, Candlewood Watershed Initiative: Mr. McAlister submitted testimony supporting the bill, but recommending “the broadening of its Section 1 grant capabilities to include partial funding (% TBD) of the cost of boat wash/decontamination stations/facilities and their staffing, where judged appropriate, to help ensure that vessels and their trailers suspected of carrying, or contaminated with, AIS are cleaned before allowed entry into CT's uninfested waters.” He further states that “the money allocated for AIS prevention and control must be sufficient to accomplish the task” and that “there should be provision for an ongoing funding mechanism.”
Scott Randall, Candlewood Tax District Board Member: Mr. Randall submitted testimony that waters throughout the state are increasingly under threat from invasive species. He notes that Lake Lillinonah, Lake Zoar, and the Housatonic River have been infected by invasive zebra mussels. Once these mussels infect a large body of water, there is no way to remove them. Mr. Randall referenced studies that “concluded $1 spent on prevention typically equals $100 of remediation.”
Tom McGowan, Executive Director, Lake Waramaug Task Force: Mr. McGowan testified that the spread of AIS throughout the state will not subside until the state supports a program such as is outlined in the bill, SB 446. He added that nonprofit lake organizations “stand ready to cooperate with such a State program as do other lake, environmental and economic development public and nonprofit programs.” Connecticut already has a plan, the Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan, that can be put into place with the adoption of SB 446.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Linda Buchanan, Clerk