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Sen. Schumer announces plan to combat invasive species

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Seriously, who brought the zebra mussels?

With summer fast approaching, tourists, anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts aren’t the only ones hoping to take advantage of the north country’s famed waterways. Some invasive species have also set their sights on the party.

But sea lamprey, Eurasian watermilfoil, spiny waterflea, brittle naiad, and zebra mussels — among others — won’t be welcome if U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer gets his way.

In a conference call Wednesday, Sen. Schumer unveiled a plan to create a grant program that would allow early detection and rapid response in the fight against aquatic invasive species as they search for new waterways.

According to data provided by Sen. Schumer’s office, the species-non-grata threaten 950 jobs spread across 133 businesses related to tourism, fishing, and shipping in Jefferson County and 488 jobs across 112 businesses in St. Lawrence County.

“Tourism, recreation, commercial fishing and boating are integral to our upstate New York businesses and keep tens of thousands of locals on the job, but invasive species are a growing threat that could choke off that resource. ... We should attack these species when they are easily and cheaply eradicated, and well before they have a significant impact on the economy,” Sen. Schumer said in a press release accompanying the call.

Under the Senator’s plan, states could petition the Department of the Interior for money and technical assistance as soon as they identify a threat from an invasive species.

With no federal funding currently available for rapid response to aquatic invasive species, Sen. Schumer’s bill will be modeled after programs that are in place to respond to agricultural pests.

The funding for the program will be in the “high tens of millions” Sen. Schumer said during the call.

The senator’s office said he would push for the legislation in the coming months as part of the 2014 Senate appropriations bill.

The zebra mussel, just one of the species Sen. Schumer highlighted during his call, can now be found throughout New York.

According to the press release, the mussel can damage harbors, waterways, ships, boats, water treatment plants and power facilities by clogging intake pipes, forcing business to pay for expensive maintenance and repair.

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