The time is now to act on invasive carp

The people of Michigan have long understood the need for decisive action to stop invasive carp — also known as Asian carp — from entering the Great Lakes. With 10,000 miles of coastline, 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of streams, Michigan has an expansive habitat for this invasive fish to damage.

But we can’t let that happen. The Great Lakes are one of Michigan’s most cherished and defining natural resources. Protecting them should be our top priority.

Our state is understandably alarmed by the recent finding that a silver carp — one of the most damaging species of invasive carp — was found just nine miles from Lake Michigan and about 27 miles beyond an electric barrier meant to keep the fish from entering the Great Lakes. The fish was found on the morning of June 22 as part of regular monitoring of this waterway.

Scientists have extensively studied the problem of invasive carp. We know the most effective immediate actions we can take to prevent these harmful invaders from entering the Great Lakes. As this recent, troublesome discovery indicates, we must act now. Among the things that should be done:

· Release the Tentatively Selected Plan feasibility study by the Army Corps of Engineers on Brandon Road Lock and Dam and take structural control measures at this important intersection for invasive carp. The Army Corps report is a significant milestone document — but not if it continues to be withheld from the public by the federal government.

· Continue funding for the control, monitoring and assessment of invasive carp through the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative program. The funding is essential to the fight against invasive carp.

· Seek innovation — we need the best ideas and the brightest minds to continue working on the problem. That is why Michigan has launched an Invasive Carp Challenge. The Challenge is an opportunity for anyone to offer ideas about how we can stop invasive carp from entering our waters.

We know that any effective action must be taken at the regional and federal level, especially, since the most immediate threat from invasive carp is in waters outside Michigan’s direct control. The implementation of electric barriers in the Illinois River marked a successful demonstration by multiple states, the federal government and Congress to implement new ideas to stop invasive carp.

The barriers have worked — for larger fish — and updates are underway. However, we’ve come to learn through rigorous testing and research that they are not effective for small fish, which can become trapped (or entrained) in the spaces between barges when the barges navigate through the barriers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service produced a study that demonstrates these results. The silver carp found last week well above the electric barriers proves the need for other solutions.

The Army Corps of Engineers has identified Brandon Road Lock and Dam, in Joliet, Illinois, as an ideal location to implement additional control measures to keep silver, bighead, and black carp from moving closer to Lake Michigan.

The Army Corps has been working on a study that had been planned for release on Feb. 28, however, the study was held back on Feb. 27. While the study is complete, it has not been released to the public. There is no reason to continue to withhold this critical study, and it should be released immediately.

Bighead, silver and black carp are destructive fish that out-compete native species for food and could significantly damage the ecology of the Great Lakes and the $7 billion fishing and boating economy those lakes support. Our boating and tourism industries are also threatened, as leaping silver carp are known to break bones and knock people unconscious.

The status quo is unacceptable. We need the release of the Army Corps report and continued federal funding for the Great Lakes so we can find the best solutions to prevent invasive carp and minimize impacts to the shipping industry in the Illinois River.

Taking no action on this critical issue would be a disservice to the future of our state and generations that will come after us.

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