A new report by The Nature Conservancy documents the huge cost annually to consumers, businesses, and government for removal, maintenance, and management of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in the Great Lakes region.
“While comprehensive costs estimates are not available, there are many individual estimates focusing on part of the problem,” the report’s authors said. “These cost estimates range from millions of dollars in cost and lost output for individual, large industrial and power facilities to hundreds of dollars spent by individual households to control AIS on their property.
“It is likely that the overall aggregate level of the cost to the Great Lakes region is significantly over $100 million annually.”
Specifically, researchers looked at sport and commercial fishing, power generation, industrial facilities, shipping-related business, public water supply intakes, and tourism and recreation.
With revenues of $30.3 billion a year and employing 90,000, tourism and recreation is most affected, the report said. Multiple costs range from monitoring and control to lost revenues “from tourists not coming to the lakeshore because of aquatic weeds and fouled beaches.”
In making the water clearer with their filter feeding, zebra and quagga mussels also encourage the growth of aquatic vegetation. “These weeds often wash up on the shores of Great Lakes beaches, along with dead mussel shells, rendering the beaches very unpleasant and almost unusable.”
Meanwhile, states around the Great Lakes spent more than $3.5 million during 2009 and 2010 to help protect the $7 billion sport fishery from invasion by Asian carp. An additional $13 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds was used in 2009 for “emergency actions” to keep the carp out.
In detailing the ways that AIS impose economic costs, the report revealed that one water treatment facility spends about $353,000 annually to control zebra mussels.
“Some may think that $353,000 doesn’t sound like much in the larger context of business costs,” said Alex Rosaen, primary author and a consultant at Anderson Economic Group. “But when you consider that we have 381 water treatment facilities across the basin, those numbers add up quickly.”
Rosaen added, “As new AIS invade the Great Lakes, new costs will accrue, additional resources will be used, and new initiatives will be needed. Preventing the spread of new AIS into the Great Lakes would benefit each state.”
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)