Carp report sparks debate

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offers solutions to fish invasion.
Tom Jackson
Jan 10, 2014

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its long-awaited report on how to keep Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes, outlining a series of possible options that could cost up to $18 billion.

Congress must now decide which option to embrace, said environmentalists who held a phone conference call Tuesday with reporters to discuss the report.

“Congress now has a roadmap to move forward,” said Marc Smith, an official with the National Wildlife Federation.

But it’s a map that outlines eight different possible routes. The option favored by many environmentalists — building a physical separation that would make it impossible for water from the Mississippi River system to mingle with Lake Michigan water in the Chicago area — would cost up to $18 billion.

Want to go?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding a series of public meetings on its new Asian carp report, and one of the meetings is reasonably close to Sandusky.

One of the hearings will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cleveland Public Library in downtown Cleveland.

Anyone who wants to speak can register at glmris.anl.gov/glmris-report, where copies of the report may be downloaded.

 
Some of the options would take up to 25 years to carry out. Options that don’t involved separating the two water systems include steps to improve barriers to carp, such as better locks designed to keep invasive species from getting through.   
 
Environmentalists on the conference call said, however, a physical separation is the only option that should be considered.

“It’s time to get away from Band-Aid approaches and toward a long-term, comprehensive and permanent solution,” said Robert Hirschfeld, water policy specialist for the Prairie Rivers Network.

American Waterways Operators, a trade group representing the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, issued a statement saying separating the Mississippi and Great Lakes systems, which the group called “two of our nation’s most important waterborne superhighways,” would damage commerce and said physical separation is not economically feasible.

Electric fish barriers have blocked Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes, the group said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, issued a statement saying he favors building a physical barrier.

“While there are several encouraging, realistic options to keep invasive species out of the lake included in the report, the best way to protect the Great Lakes is to physically separate them from the Mississippi River Basin,” Brown said.

“I will continue to work with my colleagues to press the Army Corps of Engineers to do everything in its power to stop the spread of Asian carp and to protect Lake Erie’s multi-million dollar fishing and recreation industries. In the short term, we must continue to make all efforts to protect Lake Erie” he said.

Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said he believes Asian carp species such as the Bighead carp and the Silver carp would threaten the important Lake Erie fishery by gobbling up much of the available food supply.

“Bighead and Silver carp can eat more food faster than any native Great Lakes fish species,” Brammeier said.