State must vanquish invasive species

Guest Editorial
Those who wonder why Michigan remains so concerned about the possibility of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes might consider this number: $5.7 billion.

That’s how much aquatic invasive species cost the Great Lakes region per year, according to officials with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. It’s an astonishing figure, and one that reflects the vital need for diligence in addressing the problem.

In a new report out last week, state officials pledged to be even more vigilant in detecting and stopping invasive species.

New attention
The state has put new attention to prevention efforts, including early detection and quick action to curtail the damage. Officials describe the new approach as an “all hands on deck” strategy. The effort includes making surveillance for invasive species part of routine monitoring that takes place on Michigan’s waterways, including rivers and streams. That includes plants as well. An example cited is the European frog-bit, which is being fought by removing plants and trial treatments of herbicide.

The state’s environmental safety officials remain on guard for any sign of Asian carp, which have been advancing northward up the Mississippi River basin since the 1970s, when they were imported into the South to help control algae. The fish, known as voracious eaters that disrupt the ecosystem and damage populations of native fish, are in Illinois waterways.

States at odds
Michigan and Illinois have been at odds about the significance of the Asian carp threat. Some believe the best way to assure that the dangerous carp stay out of Lake Michigan is to break the canal link that connects other Illinois waterways to Lake Michigan. But doing so would negatively impact Chicago’s shipping industry. Not doing so puts Michigan’s valuable tourism and fishing industries at risk. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has responded with monitoring and an electric barriers system. Those worried that even a few fish could spell disaster got support from a study last fall that suggested a population as small as 10 Asian carp in Lake Michigan would have a 50 percent chance of becoming permanent.

State officials at every level are being vigilant, and the congressional delegation, especially U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Midland) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow have made this issue a priority. They must not back down. The Great Lakes are priceless and must be protected.