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Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Asian Carp

Asian Carp

As Asian Carp descend upon the Great Lakes, I continue to fight to prevent this invasive species from entering and decimating the fish populations, natural wonder, and economy of the Lakes.

On June 22, an Asian Carp was found above all current barriers, less than 6 miles from Lake Michigan with direct access to the Great Lakes. This voracious and prolific fish poses a dire threat to the Great Lakes' $7.5 billion fishing industry and the 800,000 jobs it supports, along with its vitally important ecosystem. We must not let them get into the Lakes.

The fact that Carp have been found this far north is troubling. That is why I and Senator Debbie Stabenow introduced a bill together, the Permanent Prevention of Asian Carp Act. This bill would help completely cut off the flow of water between the rivers that connect the Mississippi River, where Asian Carp originated in the States, to the Great Lakes. This is viewed as the only sure way to prevent the spread of Asian Carp and other invasive species.

All members of the Michigan delegation are co-sponsors of the Permanent Prevention of Asian Carp Act.

The Permanent Prevention of Asian Carp Act
builds on a separate bill that Stabenow and I also introduced together the CARP ACT, which is the first step toward implementing immediate interim measures to keep Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan.

We introduced this bill after the U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly declined to take up lawsuits filed by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox in December against the State of Illinois and grant issue of temporary injunctions to close the current barriers and take emergency actions to ensure these fish do not reach the Great Lakes.

Cox has filed a new lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to force emergency action to block Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, and accelerate efforts to develop a permanent solution to protect the Great Lakes.

Please scroll down for more on what our legislation will do to prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.

For more information on the threat to the Great Lakes, please watch this video:

Asian carp are a non-native species that originated in Asia and collectively include grass, black, silver, and bighead carp. These fish are extremely prolific, grow to a length of more than four feet, can weigh up to 100 pounds, and eat nearly half their body weight daily. They jump out of the water at the sound of boat engines, and can cause significant damage to boats and their passengers.

They are well-suited to the climate of the Great Lakes region, which is similar to their native Asian habitats, and could well thrive there.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Researchers expect that Asian carp would disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes. Due to their large size, ravenous appetites, and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes Ecosystem.”

The Asian carp were imported from Asia to the Deep South to cleanse fish ponds and sewage lagoons, but escaped into the Mississippi River and have been working their way north since the 1970s.


Congressional Action:

It is important to note that this is not a new issue. I have been working with my colleagues over the past decade on this issue. During this time, I have continually supported legislation to combat aquatic invasive species and increase research and development programs that help to track and mitigate the spread of Asian Carp. In 2004, I helped to secure $9.1 million to construct the first permanent barrier, which was finally completed in 2009. I have also leant my support in giving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authority and funding they need to tackle this project.

In December 2009, after reports that Asian Carp had been found near the barriers, I and my fellow Members of the Michigan Congressional Delegation secured $13.5 million to help the Corps fend off the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

The $13 million is a combination of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding and reprogrammed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) funds. The money will be used by the Corps and other agencies to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes.

This action comes after I led Members of the Michigan Congressional delegation in writing a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Committees on Appropriations and Transportation and Infrastructure asking for emergency funding.

The Members also met with officials from Corps, EPA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Coast Guard on Capitol Hill in late December asking for their support on the emergency request.


Recent Action Discovers Carp Moving Toward Michigan Faster Than Anticipated:

On December 2, 2009, the Asian Carp Rapid Response Task Force began applying Rotenone, a fish toxicant, on a 5.7 mile stretch of the Canal. The application of Rotenone was used to prevent carp from breaching the lower voltage Demonstration Barrier I while the more powerful Barrier IIA was taken down for maintenance. This procedure involved closing down the Lockport Lock system, south of the electronic barriers, and then introducing the Rotenone chemical from the Demonstration Barrier I, south to the closed Lockport Locks.

During this procedure, the Rapid Response Team discovered one Asian Carp north of the Lockport Locks but south of the carp barrier, thus proving the theory that Asian Carp have migrated from the Mississippi and are very close to the Great Lakes. This find has only increased and elevated the urgency of this matter.

The Rapid Response team is also using rotenone in areas where they had previously discovered environmental DNA (eDNA) of Asian Carp north of the Carp Barrier and completed its routine maintenance of Barrier IIA on December 4, 2009.

On December 21, 2009, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox filed two lawsuits against the State of Illinois with the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to close the current barriers and take emergency actions to ensure these fish do not reach the Great Lakes. However, the Supreme Court refused to take up the case. Attorney General Cox is renewing this effort in light of the discovery of a bighead carp beyond the barriers designed to keep carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

Illinois officials have voiced concerns over the economic impact of closing the locks. The situation is critical and the threat to the Great Lakes economy posed by Asian carp far outweighs those concerns. It is clear we must take act now to close the locks. We can do so while minimizing the commercial and environmental impact on Chicago and the State of Illinois.


Details of the CARP ACT include:

  • Immediate closure of certain Chicago-area locks: Directs the Army Corps of Engineers to close the O'Brien Lock and Dam and the Chicago Controlling Works until a controlled lock operations strategy is developed.
  • Immediate installation of interim barriers: Directs the Corps to install barriers in the North Shore Channel and the Grand and Little Calumet Rivers to prevent the migration of bighead and silver carps into Lake Michigan, as well as between the Des Plaines River and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) and between the Illinois & Michigan (I&M) Canal and the CSSC to prevent carp from entering the Canal during a flood event.
  • Enhance existing barriers and monitoring systems: Includes granting authority to the Corps to acquire all real estate interests necessary for the construction, operation and maintenance of the barrier system.
  • Mitigate the impact on commerce and the City of Chicago: Instructs the Corps to conduct two studies: one to develop a strategy to mitigate the effects of this bill on existing commerce in the canals and rivers, and one to abate the effects on Chicago flood control.
  • Prevent and eradicate Asian Carp: Grants the Corps new authority to eliminate and prevent the spread of Asian Carp through the use of fish toxicant, commercial fishing and netting, harvesting, and other means necessary.
Details of the Permanent Prevention of Asian Carp Act:
  • Achieve Permanent Hydrological Separation: Requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct and expedite a study detailing engineering options in order to determine the best way to permanently separate the Mississippi River Basin from Lake Michigan.
  • Mitigate Impact on Commerce and the City of Chicago: The study will also address flooding threats, Chicago wastewater, water safety operations, and barge and recreational vessel traffic alternatives.
  • Move Canal Traffic Without Transferring Invasive Species: It will examine other modes of transportation for the shipping industry and influence new engineering designs to move canal traffic from one body of water to the other without transferring invasive species.