Lawmakers continue push for stalled Asian carp study

Melissa Nann Burke

Washington — Michigan Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga has introduced an amendment to a spending bill on energy and water programs that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release a long-stalled report about keeping the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

The underlying legislation is expected to be part of an appropriations package of four spending bills that will be considered by the U.S. House this week.

The language proposed by Huizenga mirrors text approved by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee last week ordering the Secretary of the Army to direct the Army Corps to release the report’s release within 30 days after the spending bill takes effect later this year. Huizenga, R-Zeeland, co-chairs the House Great Lakes Task Force.

“We’re saying that when this passes, it has to be released,” Huizenga said Monday. “We’re trying to use every possible means that we have at our disposal to make sure that we can get as much attention as (we can) possibly get from the administration, as well as our own appropriators and leadership in the House. It certainly puts it on the record.”

Expected five months ago, the draft report for fighting the invasive species at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam project near Joliet, Illinois, was held by the Army Corps at the direction of the Trump administration on the eve of its planned release in late February.

Trump aides have told members of Congress they want the next head of the Army Corps to take office before releasing the study, which examines the potential environmental effects of measures recommended to prevent Asian carp from going beyond the lock and dam at Brandon Road.

The Brandon Road site is considered an ideal spot for blocking aquatic invasive species from progressing farther upstream, according to the Army Corps. But the barge and towboat industry has raised concerns that a new physical structure at Brandon Road could disrupt navigation during construction and maintenance.

Huizenga helped lead a bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing legislation last month that would force the Trump administration to release the Brandon Road study within seven days of the bill’s enactment.

Another lead sponsor of that bill, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, this month introduced an amendment to the spending bill when it was before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water that would have required the report’s release within seven days.

Kaptur, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, withdrew the amendment when subcommittee chairman Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, pledged to work with Kaptur and other members from Great Lakes states to urge the Army Corps to release the study.

The House Appropriation Committee’s accompanying report on the spending bill urges the Army Corps to publish the report, but that would not compel its release on a specific timeline.

If approved, the Huizenga measure would amend the legislative text of the bill, carrying greater legal weight and directing the Army Corps to act within 30 days.

Getting the Senate bill’s language into the House version of the spending bill would make it possible for the matter to be included when lawmakers from both chambers conference to work out differences in the bills, Huizenga said.

“We’re going to raise that profile, and I’m willing to make the effort to try to deal with it,” he said.

(202) 662-8736