Feds have failed to take steps to halt carp

Guest Editorial
A twist on an old morality tale has it that “Chicken Little only has to be right once.”

Even if it’s the same warning over and over again. For a very long time now lots of people have been warning that the Asian Carp menace is real and it will take some very drastic steps to prevent the voracious fish from entering the Great Lakes.

And for a very long time now people like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi River barge and shipping interests and Chicago-area politicians — including one who currently resides in the White House — have been dragging their feet or actively opposing
efforts that would hinder commercial water traffic in the area.

And the evidence just keeps mounting. On Monday scientists said they have documented that an Asian carp species has successfully
reproduced within the Great Lakes watershed. That blows a great big hole in a number of naysayer claims — namely that carp will never actually make it into Lakes or that if they did, they couldn’t reproduce.

The news came from researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and Bowling Green State University who said four grass carp captured last year in Ohio’s Sandusky River, a Lake Erie tributary, had spent their entire lives there and were not introduced through means such as stocking.

Grass carp aren’t the bighead and silver carp that have caused the greatest concerns. Those species are prolific breeders that gobble huge amounts of plankton vital to aquatic food chains.

Scientists say the bighead and silver carp could spread widely in the Great Lakes and destabilize a fishing industry valued at $7 billion.

But the fact that a cousin species could reproduce in places they weren’t supposed to is very bad news indeed.

The Obama administration has spent nearly $200 million to shield the lakes, focusing primarily on an electrified barrier and other measures. But critics say much more is needed and are pressing to physically separate the two systems.

The Army Corps is scheduled to release a report in coming months on a long-term solution, but that may well be too little, too late, exactly what a lot of people warned when the Corps said it would take 18 months to do the work.

This has been a slow-motion disaster that could possibly have been resolved — or at least mitigated — if those in charge had acted with the kind of zeal we should expect in response to a disaster. Even one that takes a few decades to materialize.