Michigan lawmakers buoy efforts to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes; public invited for feedback in Ypsilanti
Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey
Michigan lawmakers today called for the swift and permanent separation of Lake Michigan from the Chicago waterway in order to stop Asian carp from populating Lake Michigan.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the Stop Asian Carp Act would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide options for separating the Mississippi River Basin from Lake Michigan within a year and a half, pending its passage by lawmakers.
The Army Corps has begun work on its five-year study already, but that’s not fast enough to stop the carp, and it may or may not include a plan to separate the systems, according to Stabenow.
“Asian carp poses a grave threat to our $7 billion fishing industry, $16 billion recreational boating industry and the entire Great Lakes ecosystem,” said Stabenow, speaking at press conference in Washington, D.C. “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.”
Stabenow introduced the legislation today, while a partner bill is being introduced in the U.S. House by David Camp, R-Midland, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The U.S. Army Corp has invited local residents to learn about the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study and give feedback at sessions at 2 and 5:30 p.m. March 8 at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest, 1275 S. Huron St.
Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey
A previous bill aimed at temporarily closing locks between the water systems in order to stop the carp failed in 2010, notably lacking support from Illinois lawmakers. But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is on board this go-around, Stabenow said. Now, an electric barrier is the only thing stopping the invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes.
And new technology that detects fish DNA in the water shows that the barrier isn’t working, according to fishery biologists.
Under the proposed legislation, a plan for a permanent solution must begin within 30 days of the bill's enactment. The act would require the Army Corps to send a progress report to Congress and the President Barack Obama within six months and again in 12 months.
Stabenow said Obama has indicated he’ll back the effort.
It isn’t clear yet how much the effort would cost, what it would look like or who would pay for it, Stabenow said.
“We are talking about redirecting substantial dollars in to a permanent solution,” Stabenow said.
But what’s clear is the effort would require “All hands on deck,” Stabenow said. The feat of engineering would require cooperation from municipal, state and the federal governments, and each could be asked to chip in.
In the Illinois and Mississippi River systems, two kinds of Asian carp have crowded out native species by eating vast amounts of the same food source, including algae, zooplankton and phytoplankton. For years, the fish have been making their way north toward the Great Lakes, said David Bunnell, an Ann Arbor-based research fishery biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
It’s not clear how the carp would behave in Lake Michigan or if they could thrive there, where the waters are cooler, less turbid and offer less to eat than in shallower, warmer river systems.
“When new species come into a new environment, they can do unexpected things,” he said.
If the fish do get into Lake Michigan and are able to move through the Great Lakes and into Michigan river systems, or into bays “they could have tremendous negative impacts there,” Bunnell said.
In some places along the Mississippi and Illinois river systems, the invasive carp make up to 80 percent of the fish population, Bunnell said.
Lynne Whelan, public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the group can’t comment on the proposed legislation.
Congress created the study with the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, but took two years to fund it, said Dave Wethington, project manager for the study. After it received funding, work got underway and the Army Corps published a project management plan online in November 2010.
The March 8 meeting in Ypsilanti will be the last public meeting held on the GLMRIS; the Army Corps will stop soliciting public comments on March 31. Comments are being solicited electronically through the web site www.glmris.anl.gov. For more information,
contact the GLMRIS project manager, at 312-846-5522 or via e-mail at David.M.Wethington@usace.army.mil.