Battle Heats Up to Stop Asian Carp From Entering Great Lakes

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Following the discovery of a Bighead Asian Carp on the wrong side of the electric barrier six miles from Lake Michigan, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote to President Obama asking him to immediately appoint a federal Coordinated Response Commander for Asian carp.

The  appointment of  a Coordinated Response Commander would establish efforts to prevent the Asian carp from occupying Lake Michigan as a national priority. The commander would have the ability to coordinate the day-to-day efforts of the multiple federal, state and local agencies involved.  The letter was sent to the White House in June, 2010 and was signed by ten Senators whose states border the Great Lakes.

“Since 2003, we’ve been working at the federal level to keep this invasive species away from Lake Michigan. But the capture of a live fish on the wrong side of the electric barrier changes everything.  We have to redouble our efforts and do everything in our power to stop this invasive species from entering Lake Michigan,” said Durbin. “We have to go at this as if we were at war.  The viability of the Great Lakes is at stake.”

In the letter, Durbin and his colleagues write:

“[W]e write to you with a renewed sense of urgency, asking you to name a federal Coordinated Response Commander for Asian carp who can effectively marshal and organize these efforts to contain the spread of the carp. . . . We need the best and the brightest — scientists, engineers, and environmental experts — focused on this single goal.  That is why we are calling on you to immediately appoint a Coordinated Response Commander for Asian carp to fight this battle.  We need someone with the knowledge and skills to direct and coordinate multiple federal, state and private sector efforts.”

Durbin also discussed legislation he and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will introduce to require the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an expedited study to determine how to physically separate the waterways that connect the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watersheds to prevent the passage of aquatic invasive species.  This “hydrological separation” — a complex feat of engineering — may be the best hope for a long-term solution for containing invasive species.

The bill will require that the study begin within 30 days of enactment and be completed within 18 months of enactment, with several reports due in the intervening months.  The study will examine other modes of transportation for shipping, and create engineering designs to move canal traffic from one water body to the other without transferring aquatic species, and it will detail the environmental benefits, costs and construction time estimates of each option.  It will also address flooding threats, Chicago wastewater, waterway safety operations and barge and recreational vessel traffic alternatives.