Washington — More than 20 members of Congress and key federal officials met Wednesday to take urgent steps to prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, organized the meeting in wake of a new study that suggests small Asian carp could travel upstream with commercial barge traffic through electric barriers intended to stop them from reaching the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin. It comes as Asian carp have been found closer to electronic barriers designed to keep them from entering the Great Lakes.
The meeting included the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Service, Council of Environmental Quality and U.S. Coast Guard. It was aimed at “getting a great sense of urgency about what needs to be done. ... We need to keep the agencies laser focused,” Stabenow said.
Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, said last week that invasive species “hitching rides” on ships is how zebra mussels ended up in the Great Lakes.
Miller said she hopes the study serves as a wake-up call to those throughout the Great Lakes region that “we cannot stand idly by” as Asian carp continue to move up the Mississippi River, “devastating every ecosystem in their path.”
Miller, Stabenow and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, are pushing a bill that would require the Army Corps of Engineers to use the Brandon Road Lock and Dam along the Chicago waterway system to monitor and prevent Asian carp from migrating further north.
Stabenow and Peters wrote to the Obama administration this month, urging $3 million specifically for the Army Corps feasibility study underway at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam and for completion of the study within three years.
She said the Army Corps of Engineers has authority to look at new technologies there to prevent the spread of Asian carp, but noted that they say the research is going to take them four years.
“We told them, ‘This has to be done faster. What more do you need to have it done faster,’ ” Stabenow said. Other possible technologies include using carbon dioxide or sound to prevent the spread. “They are not fully developed yet.”
“We cannot wait,” Miller said. “It is critical that we take swift, substantive action.”
The Obama administration has been noncommittal about closing the locks between the Chicago waterway system and the Great Lakes.
Separately Wednesday, Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said he was part of bipartisan legislation to help protect the Great Lakes by authorizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for 2016-20 at $300 million annually. The initiative focuses on projects for the Great Lakes restoration and preventing Asian carp getting into the Great Lakes.