Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Army Corps says keeping invasive Asian carp out of Great Lakes could cost billions, take years

In response to the threat of invasive Asian carp getting into Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes, where they could damage the region's $7 billion annual fishing industry, the Army Corps of Engineers released a report Monday detailing eight plans that could prevent migration of the fish from the Mississippi River basins through Chicago-area barge canals. The plans could cost more than $18 billion and could take up to 25 years to complete, Michael Hawthorne reports for the Chicago Tribune. (Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante: one variety of Asian carp)

President Obama in July released a $50 million plan to keep silver and bighead carp out of Lake Michigan, but in October researchers said they found evidence that the less damaging grass carp were reproducing in Lake Erie. Another report said some fish have breached an electric barrier meant as a last line of defense, although no carp were found to have done so.

Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, told Hawthorne, "If you really want to prevent the movement of species and keep Lake Michigan clean, it's going to cost money. We can't just keep patching over these problems and hoping they go away." The Corps didn't recommend any one strategy, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) "expressed their disappointment that the report failed to include fully developed project plans and included only 'conceptual-level details'," reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. The most expensive and time consuming plans "are those that call for permanent structures to block the carp from entering the Great Lakes." (Read more; subscription may be required; a trial is available)

"Environmental groups and a coalition of mayors from the Great Lakes states say the most effective option is separating the two watersheds," Hawthorne writes.  "They see such a project as part of a larger plan, long discussed by Chicago-area leaders, to upgrade the region's aging transportation network with new facilities that quickly transfer freight between railroads, barges and trucks." David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, told Hawthorne, "Whatever we do, let's do it right. The key is to get a decision sooner rather than later." (Read more)

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