Fight against Asian carp far from done

A bipartisan bill is moving ahead in Congress, and it gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers six months to develop a cost estimate for a new channel at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam. Michigan, though, will need to follow through.

Michigan’s congressional delegation is keeping concern about Asian carp high on its list of priorities. That’s befitting lawmakers from the Great Lakes State, who serve Michiganders well by pressing federal officials to do more to keep the invasive species out of Lake Michigan and the rest of the lakes.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (R-Harrison Twp.) have proposed legislation that would help create a new barrier to the Asian carp. The legislation also would call for a long-term plan for keeping the invaders out of the Great Lakes. It does not set funding or spell out specific actions, but it may help set a deadline and reduce bureaucratic logjams.

In January 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a report on methods for keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. It listed several alternatives for keeping the flying fish from entering Lake Michigan through Chicago’s system of canals and rivers, ranging from continuing with the electric barriers now in use to recreating a physical separation between the waterways and the lakes, which could cost up to $18 billion.
Chicago and Illinois fight energetically against any major changes to their waterways, which provide freight routes.

Yet the majestic Great Lakes must be well protected from the carp, which are voracious eaters known to disrupt the ecosystem and damage populations of native fish wherever they go. The carp have been advancing up the Mississippi River basin since the 1970s and are already in Illinois waterways. One report suggested that as few as 10 carp making it into the Lake Michigan would have a 50 percent chance of becoming a permanent population. That’s unacceptable.

The proposed federal budget calls for spending $28 million to finish a third electric barrier near Chicago, but very little to explore what could be done at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, a site environmental activists now consider a priority in stopping the Asian carp.

Congress would still have to authorize funding for any new efforts to stop the Asian carp, but the new bill at least tells the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers it would have six months to come up with a cost estimate and schedule for digging a new channel at the lock and dam with technology needed to stop the carp.

Fourteen of Michigan’s 16-member delegation are supporting the bill. This is a fight that will last a long time. Michigan must not give up.
— LANSING STATE JOURNAL