Stabenow: Trump officials delay Asian carp plan
Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow on Tuesday accused Republican President Donald Trump’s administration of preventing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from releasing a draft plan to fight Asian carp and protect the Great Lakes Basin from invasive species.
A draft report for the Brandon Road Lock and Dam project near Joliet, Illinois, was slated for release Tuesday, but has been “deferred pending some more coordination that’s needed,” Alan Marshall, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district office in Rock Island, Illinois, confirmed in a Detroit News interview.
The study was expected to recommend specific measures to prevent Asian carp from traveling beyond the lock and dam, located 286 miles above the confluence of the Illinois River and the Mississippi River. It is seen as a major “choke point” in the fight against invasive infiltration of Great Lakes waterways.
Stabenow’s office, citing private discussions with multiple sources at Army Corps headquarters, blamed the Trump administration for the delay of the draft report.
“It’s extremely alarming that it appears the Trump administration has decided to delay the release of today’s plan which is a critical part of our efforts to stop Asian carp and other invasive species from reaching our Great Lakes,” Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in a statement.
“After a lengthy review process, which included extensive outreach and collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders, it seems that the Administration has decided to side with a narrow group of special interests intent on preventing actions to address the movement of Asian Carp toward Lake Michigan.”
Stabenow, Michigan’s senior U.S. senator, called on the Trump administration to “fully explain the rationale” for the delay and provide a new date for release of the draft plan.
The White House could not immediately be reached for comment.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, has urged federal action on the Brandon Road Lock and Dam project. He included it in an infrastructure wish list prepared for the National Governors Association and submitted to the Trump administration earlier this month.
Former U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Harrison Township Republican now serving as Macomb County public works commissioner, also had urged action by then-President Barack Obama when she served in Congress. Obama was originally a U.S. senator from Illinois, where some state officials have long objected to additional barriers and other anti-carp measures in the area.
Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, a Republican, argued in a Friday Chicago Tribune commentary that three electric fish barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System have succeeded in keeping Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. She objected to what she claimed would have been a draft proposal for another electric barrier, noise cannons and other measures that would cost up to $270 million for construction and another $8 million to $10 million in annual operation and maintenance costs.
The Army Corps of Engineers first announced the Brandon Road Lock and Dam evaluation in April 2015 during the Obama administration as part of the ongoing Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin Study. The study was expected to cost up to $8.2 million and take nearly four years. A draft report had been scheduled for release Feb. 28.
“The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study program, and the Brandon Road Study, are large and complex undertakings that require extensive coordination with multiple levels of government and non-governmental stakeholders,” Marshall said Tuesday, explaining the delay.
The Army Corps spokesman could not provide an updated time frame for when the draft report may be released.
Asked if the Trump administration played any role in the delay, Marshall said only the Rock Island district leading the Army Corps study is “ready to respond to any request from the administration and multiple levels of government” that are involved.
The evaluation is intended to assess the viability of establishing a single point for control to prevent the upstream transfer of aquatic nuisance species from the Mississippi River basin into the Great Lakes basin, according to the Army Corps.