Plan to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes

WASHINGTON — Federal officials said today they will test new tools to control the spread of voracious Asian carp, including strengthening an electronic barrier in the Chicago area, as part of a new strategy for keeping the invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

President Barack Obama’s administration released a 2013 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework saying there will also be a new project to separate Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin at Eagle Marsh near Fort Wayne, Ind. A study looking at other control methods, including permanent separation of Chicago area waterways from Lake Michigan, is to be completed later this year.

For years, federal, state and local officials have been spending millions trying to ensure that Asian carp — two species of which have reached the Mississippi River basin’s tributaries — from getting into the Great Lakes. It’s believed they would cause severe damage to the lakes fishery, destroying the habitat for some other species of fish.

U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, called today’s updated framework “a welcome short-term response” to the threat posed by the voracious species. But, he said, he remains committed to hydrological separation of the lake from the Mississippi River basin tributaries around Chicago as the best solution.

Camp and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., were the driving forces behind legislation last year ordering the Army Corps of Engineers to devise a plan for keeping Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. But in October 2012, the Corps said it expected to provide only a “range of options” for consideration, despite the congressional mandate for a specific plan.

Stabenow said the new framework is “encouraging” and that the Army Corps expects to finish its report by year’s end. But, she said, it’s “critically important that this report not only be done on time, but also be done right, with fully developed plans for separating the Great Lakes from the carp’s entry points.”

The new strategy framework was drawn up by the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, which includes representatives from federal, state and local governmental agencies.

In the new document, officials said they also plan to design amobile electric dispersal barrier that can be deployed in Chicago area waterways in an emergency situation, continue work on another permanent electric barrier in the region, and develop and field test tools like water guns, netting, selective toxins and other control measures.

Meanwhile, the document also calls for expanding sampling efforts in south Lake Michigan, western Lake Erie and other “potential invasion spots.” Officials have documented nearly two dozen tributaries where Asian carp could potentially enter the Great Lakes.

“This strategy continues our aggressive effort to bolster our tools to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes while we work toward a long-term solution,” said John Goss, Asian carp director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Proposals to hydrologically separate the Chicago area waterways from Lake Michigan have been contentious, with officials in Illinois and Indiana balking at the idea. But speaking at the Mackinac Policy Conference in June, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said separating the waterways may be the “ultimate solution” to controlling Asian carp, even though it is believed electric barriers have so far kept the fish out of the Great Lakes.


For more information and to read the 2013 Framework,

By Todd Spangler

Detroit Free Press Washington Staff

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