Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 2, 2014

Jack Lessenberry: Move to block carp hits rough water

Virtually everybody agrees that Asian carp are a serious threat to everything that matters about the Great Lakes.

Now, a conservative congresswoman from Michigan wants to do something radical about it before the lakes are destroyed.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, is not usually eager to support new spending programs. But she grew up on the water, where her family owned a boating supply shop.

She knows the carp are on the point of getting into Lake Michigan, and if they do get established, they present a major threat to fishing, swimming and recreational boating industry.

A threat that is, that could cost the economy billions every year. So earlier this month she introduced a bill, HR 4001, that would order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get to work within a year to permanently seal off the man-made Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal that connects the Mississippi River with Lake Michigan.

That canal, actually a series of canals, was dug in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in part to divert sewage away from Chicago.

Today, barge operators use it to ferry cargo.

But now, there are legitimate fears the canals are becoming a conduit for the lakes’ destruction. As is widely known, two species of Asian carp, Bighead and Silver, have been working their way north up the Mississippi River ever since escaping from catfish farms in Arkansas during flooding in the 1980s.

They are far larger and more destructive than domestic carp. Bighead carp can top 100 pounds. Silver carp, which can weigh up to 60 pounds, have a nasty habit of jumping out of the water when excited, on occasion injuring people and damaging boats.

Both species suck up vast amounts of food, starving out native species of fish. Biologists say if they are once established in the world’s largest source of fresh water, getting them out will be nearly impossible. In January, the Army Corps released a long-awaited report on the problem which virtually everyone found disappointing. It presented eight options and recommended none.

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