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Another effort to stop Asian carp

March 3, 2011 - Steve Murch
This week is Great Lakes Week, where advocates of the Great Lakes meet with legislators to discuss the importance of the Lakes to the region's economy. As coincidence would have it, it comes a week after the Michigan Sea Grant analysis was released that showed the Lakes generate $62 billion in wages annually for over 1.5 million people employed in industries tie to the Lakes.

More importantly, today a bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Debbie Stabenow and cosponsored by Carl Levin, and a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Dave Camp and cosponsored by all Michigan representatives to prevent Asian carp, and other invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.   According to a press release from Stabenow's office, the Stop Asian Carp Act “will require the speedy creation of an action plan to permanently separate Lake Michigan from the Chicago Area Waterway System, where experts believe Asian carp could enter and cause irreparable harm to the Great Lakes.”

Let's hope it's not too late. There still hasn't been any Asian carp found in the Great Lakes, but we can't be certain.   “Asian carp poses a grave threat to our $7 billion fishing industry, $16 billion recreational boating industry and the entire Great Lakes ecosystem,” Stabenow said.  “The only way to protect our Great Lakes from Asian carp and other invasive species is to permanently separate the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.  We don’t have time to lose.  We need a comprehensive action plan to stop Asian carp and we need it as soon as possible.” 

According to the press release, “The Stop Asian Carp Act requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to create an action plan that includes the best options for permanently separating the Mississippi River Basin from Lake Michigan.  Creation of the plan must begin within 30 days of the bill's enactment, and the Army Corps must send a progress report to Congress and the President within six months and again in 12 months. The full plan must be completed and given to Congress and the President 18 months after the bill is enacted. It will be monitored by the Council on Environmental Quality to ensure its thorough and timely completion.   “Thousands of people in the tourism and fishing industries rely on a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem for their livelihood.  Asian carp is the number one threat to their way of life,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., cosponsor of the bill.  “With so much at stake, we need to do everything we can to stop this invasive species.  Our bill creates an expedited study of how permanent separation of the waterways can be achieved. While this method would require a complex feat of engineering, we need to understand the costs and benefits and whether this method offers the best hope for a long-term solution for containing not only the carp, but other invasive species.”

The drive to stop Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes has sped up, but for as long as the species has been making its way up the Illinois River and toward the Great Lakes, something could have/should have been done before. We've known about the carp, heard of the devastation they've caused to the ecosystem, and seen the videos of them jumping out of the water for a long time. We've even laughed at the unfortunately people in the videos who have been hit by the “flying” fish.   “Every day, Asian carp pose a greater risk to the Great Lakes ecosystem and the 800,000 jobs it sustains,” Camp said.  “There is no time to waste.  Our bill will set in motion the process to achieve a permanent solution to keep these devastating fish out of the Great Lakes.  The Stop Asian Carp Act is the necessary first step to achieving hydrological separation.  In the meantime, I am going to keep working to ensure we’re taking every necessary immediate step to keep these fish out of the lakes.”

The Great Lakes have dealt with a number of invasive species over the last two decades or so, but none poses as big of a threat as the Asian Carp. They've been out of the public's conscience since the beginning of winter, but with spring around the corner – and with it a new fishing season – people will be taking notice again. Let's hope this latest bill will be the measure we need – and that it comes about fast enough.


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