Congressman Brian Higgins welcomed the U.S. Geological Survey research vessel "The Muskie" to Canalside for public tours over the weekend.
"Protecting and restoring the Great Lakes is one of the most important things we can do for our environment and our local economy," said Higgins, a member of the bipartisan Congressional Great Lakes Task Force. "As Western New Yorkers are getting increasing access to the water's edge thanks to conservation and economic development along the shores of Lake Erie, we are thankful for the work of the USGS and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission for their work toward this effort."
The Muskie is the USGS Great Lakes Science Center's principal research vessel on Lake Erie. Using state-of-the-art equipment, The Muskie collects data for studies on issues, such as the effects of invasive species and environmental changes on the Great Lakes.
"We're delighted for the opportunity to bring our new science vessel to eastern Lake Erie and showcase our new capabilities," said USGS Great Lakes Science Center Director Russ Strach. "Our large research vessels are essentially floating scientific laboratories. They're equipped with cutting-edge science capabilities needed to address critical management questions and promote restoration, management and sustainability of the fishery resources."
"The Great Lakes are an engine for recreation, income and quality of life," said Robert Lambe, executive secretary of the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Fishery Commission. "Cities like Buffalo benefit significantly from a healthy Great Lakes. The Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Niagara River fisheries alone generate more than $1 billion in economic benefits to New York and support almost 7,000 jobs. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission is committed to improving this tremendous resource. We could not do our job without the strong support we receive from members of Congress like Brian Higgins, who understand the need for restoration, and value the major return from investing in the Great Lakes."
"The Lake Erie Eastern Cold Water Fish Community Assessment we're about to embark on is focused on Lake Trout and Burbot (freshwater cod) populations," said Dr. Mark Rogers, lead USGS biologist on the survey. "A balanced coldwater community in the eastern basin is a goal of Lake Erie management; these two native predators are an important component."
In 2011, the new R/V Muskie replaced the ageing R/V Musky II, which had been the primary USGS research platform on Lake Erie since 1960. The new vessel provides a safe and reliable platform for scientists, and is equipped with state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation to improve the understanding of deep-water ecosystems and fishes in Lake Erie for ecological management purposes.
The R/V Muskie is designed to support up to a five-day mission with sleeping accommodations for six. It includes all the necessary features to support a wide variety of aquatic science projects in the open water and near-shore areas of Lake Erie, including electronic navigational and scientific equipment, onboard sample processing and storage facilities, and a 3G/4G cellular modem and Wi-Fi communications network.
The USGS awarded an $8.2 million contract to the Great Lakes Towing Co. in 2010 for the construction of two new Great Lakes research vessels - the R/V Muskie and Lake Ontario's R/V Kaho - to replace the oldest vessels in the USGS fleet. Funding for the contract came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Higgins has long been a vocal advocate of protecting and preserving the Great Lakes and fully funding programs to carry out this task, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.