Mich. lawmakers find new urgency to stop Asian carp

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan lawmakers in Congress say the results of a new federal study illustrate the urgency to empower the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do more to prevent Asian carp from infiltrating the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week released a study showing smaller fish species such as the invasive Asian carp could inadvertently travel upstream with commercial barge traffic through electric barriers intended to stop them from reaching the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin.

The agency said its research using golden shriners found that small fish can become trapped between barges and transported through a lock-and-dam system and across electrical barriers such as those in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

“Since this study exclusively used golden shriners, we do not know if juvenile Asian carp would respond the same way,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement, adding that it has no evidence that Asian carp have ever passed the electrical barriers this way.

Lawmakers are still concerned, with Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, noting 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.”

“We cannot wait,” Miller said in a statement. “It is critical that we take swift, substantive action.”

Miller and Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, are pushing a bicameral 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.

The Obama administration has been noncommital about closing the locks between the Chicago waterway system and the Great Lakes. President Barack Obama is a former U.S. senator from Illinois, where the Chicago waterway system is located.

Stabenow and Peters on Thursday wrote to the Obama administration, urging $3 million in funding specifically for the Army Corps feasibility study underway at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam and for completion of the study within three years.

The study began in April but is projected to take nearly 46 months, which is “disappointing and inconsistent” with the three-year time frame required by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, the senators wrote in a letter to Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of management and Budget.

They noted another study in September found that juvenile silver carp had moved 52 miles closer to Lake Michigan just within the last year.

“There is no question that challenges exist to developing and implementing measures that prevent the transfer of (aquatic invasive species) at Brandon Road,” the senators wrote.

“However ... recent findings illustrate the urgency of the situation and need to advance emergency and interim measures while the USACE completes the Brandon Road feasibility study.”

In late September, six members of the Michigan House delegation signed a similar letter asking Obama to fully fund the Brandon Road Lock and Dam feasibility study, which is estimated to cost $8.2 million.

Signatories included Reps. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls; Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak; Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn; John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit; and Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield; and Miller.


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