Washington — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to further delay its study on how to upgrade a waterway choke point near Lake Michigan to deter Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.
Twenty-six members of the House, including 12 from Michigan, signed a Dec. 7 letter saying that more delays will only increase the likelihood that the destructive invasive species reaches the freshwater lakes.
The lawmakers say they want the Army Corps to stick to its original timeline for completing the Chief of Engineers report by February 2019.
“Asian carp are on the doorstep of the Great Lakes system, and we have a small but critical window of opportunity to stop them there,” the members wrote. “Once they are in the lakes it will be too late.”
The Michigan members who signed the letter are Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland; Tim Walberg, R-Tipton; John Moolenaar, R-Midland; Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph; Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn; Dave Trott, R-Birmingham; Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden; Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet; Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township; Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield; Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak; and Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.
The Army Corps in early August published its $275 million plan to control the carp by installing a new electric barrier to repel or stun the destructive fish and underwater speakers generating noise to deter them from traveling beyond the lock and dam at Brandon Road near Joliet, Illinois.
The Army Corps initially planned to collect public feedback for 45 days but has twice extended that deadline, so that the comment period closed Friday.
The House members’ letter echoes concerns raised last month by the senators of Michigan, who wrote to the Army Corps saying the process was taking “far too long.”
“Current estimates indicate it will take as long as eight years to have a barrier installed at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam,” wrote U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and Gary Peters.
“This timeframe is simply unacceptable with Asian carp having been discovered closer and closer to the Great Lakes, including an adult Asian carp captured above the electric barrier, just nine miles from Lake Michigan” in June.
The senators also asked that the Corps deploy interim measures for controlling Asian carp at Brandon Road, such as speakers to generate noise, “as soon as possible.”
Construction of the full upgrades for Brandon Road is likely years away. The agency intends to conduct a feasibility study, followed by reviews by federal and state agencies and finally the Chief of Engineers report.
If authorized by Congress and funded, the project could be constructed roughly four years after authorization.
Environmental and conservation groups said Friday that they had delivered more than 10,000 letters from concerned residents around the country to the Army Corps, asking the agency to act more swiftly.
For details about the plan, visit glmris.anl.gov/brandon-rd/.