TRAVERSE CITY — A $50 million federal plan released Wednesday for keeping hungry Asian carp from reaching the valuable fish populations of the Great Lakes calls for reinforcing electrical and other barriers currently in place and for field-testing other methods, including the use of water guns and hormonal fish love potions.
The Obama administration made improving its network of barriers a primary focus of an updated blueprint for keeping bighead and silver carp from reaching the five inland seas, even as they continue infesting the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries.
“This strategy continues our aggressive effort to bolster our tools to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes while we work toward a long-term solution,” said John Goss of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who oversees the anti-carp initiative. “The 2013 framework will strengthen our defenses against Asian carp and move innovative carp control projects from research to field trials to implementation.”
The much-maligned carp were imported decades ago to clear algae from fish farms and sewage lagoons in the Deep South. They escaped during floods and have migrated northward, gobbling huge amounts of plankton — tiny plants and animals that virtually all fish eat at some point. Scientists differ about how widely they would spread in the Great Lakes, but under worst-case scenarios they would occupy large areas and severely disrupt the $7 billion fishing industry.
With this year’s spending, the administration will have devoted $200 million over four years to keep the Great Lakes carp-free. But many state officials and advocacy groups contend that the only sure way to prevent invasive species from migrating between the lakes and the Mississippi system is to build dams or other structures near Chicago, where a man-made canal links the two giant watersheds by forming a pathway between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River.