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Monster carp invasion is no hoax PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 05 July 2017 13:51

The lake killers are in plain sight, close by and ready to lay waste to an ecosystem. Asian carp are a short distance from Lake Michigan and moving this way.
    Other creatures that have devastated the Great Lakes, notably zebra mussels, snuck in. Suddenly they were here, and it was too late to do anything about them, except watch them multiply and tally the damage they do.
    The steady progress of the giant carp toward the lake, on the other hand, has been observed, studied, recorded and verified. There is no surprise and there is no excuse for not stopping them.
    Yet plans to defend the lakes against the carp menace are on hold, hostage to the Trump administration’s hostility to environmental protection and Illinois politics.
    Two weeks ago a commercial fisherman caught a 28-inch silver carp in the Calumet River nine miles from the outlet to Lake Michigan in Chicago. The fish was found beyond three electronic barriers in the Illinois Sanitary and Ship Canal that were supposed to keep the lake safe from a carp migration.
    The Illinois River, which connects to the canal, teems with silver and bighead carp that are the descendants of farm-raised fish that escaped captivity. Since 2010, more that 5.5 million pounds of these carp have been pulled from a 75-mile stretch of the river downstream from the carp barriers.
    The one found recently on the wrong side of the barriers was small by Asian carp standards. Asian carp, which eat 20% of their body weight in plankton every day, can grow to 100 pounds.
    If they colonize the Great Lakes, scientists say, they could wipe out native and stocked fish species—whitefish, trout and perch caught by commercial fishermen and the salmon and trout that sustain sport fishing—by consuming their food supply.
    Aware that the electronic barriers can be breached, the Army Corps of Engineers has a plan ready to establish a poisonous carp-kill zone in the Brandon Road navigation lock, but the Trump administration has refused to allow it to be made public or the Corps to put it into action.
    At the same time, President Trump is proposing to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which funds current efforts to try to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan.
    The state of Illinois, shirking its responsibility to help protect the lake from which it benefits in many ways, has weighed in to keep the Brandon Road measure under wraps with no chance of being implemented. Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti wrote in an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune that the plan would “cost too many taxpayer dollars.”
    When compared to the economic damage the carp would cause in the lakes—estimated in the billions—the cost of keeping them out cannot be considered a credible deterrent to acting now. In any case, it’s doubtful that Illinois politicians worry much about U.S. taxpayer dollars. More likely, their concern is that changes to the lock could inconvenience barge operators.
    The ultimate solution—a serious proposal recommended by the Great Lakes Commission and the St. Lawrence Cities Initiative—is to shut off the canal from Lake Michigan. That would require Chicago to do what every other city on the Great Lakes does and treat its sewage instead of sending it down the river. Expensive? Of course, but a small price to pay to save the lakes.
    It will never happen without action by the federal government, the executive branch of which is now led by a man who is trying to eliminate most of the funding for Great Lakes environmental issues. Perhaps the president who said climate change is a hoax thinks the same of the Asian carp invasion.
    Trump’s inaction notwithstanding, the discovery of an Asian carp beyond barriers and within easy swimming distance of Lake Michigan demands a response, and there is a glimmer of hope in one that has come from Congress. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has called on the administration to release the Brandon Road plan at once.
    Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin emphasized the demand by introducing legislation to force the release. All who value the largest freshwater system in the world should hope her colleagues agree with her statement that the carp discovery “is incredibly troubling and shows how urgent our fight is right now.”

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