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Lansing — The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a funding bill for energy and water that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release a report on ways to keep Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.

The Senate provision would force the stalled report’s release within 30 days after the budget is signed. The Trump administration delayed the scheduled release of the report in late February amid concerns from the commercial barge industry.

It’s similar to a requirement that the House Appropriations Committee included in one of its government funding bills that counters the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. A $2 million portion of that program is used to fight Asian carp, one of the reasons committee members like U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, pushed to keep funding for the program intact.

The still-unreleased carp report includes recommendations on how to keep the invasive fish from entering the Great Lakes at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois.

Trump aides told congressional lawmakers that they want to wait to release the study until after the next Army Corps chief takes over.

But a group of 16 Republican House members mostly from Illinois and Indiana wrote President Donald Trump in February asking him to wait to release the report, while a letter from U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Michigan’s other 12 House members urged him to publish it immediately.

They wrote Trump that delaying would “only increase the likelihood of a full-scale irreversible inundation of this highly destructive invasive species.”

In June, a 28-inch Asian carp raised alarm after it was found nine miles from Lake Michigan, past an electric barrier network meant to keep the fish at bay. Experts estimate a potential $7 billion blow to the region’s fishing industry should such carp make their way into the Great Lakes.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Lansing Democrat who co-chairs the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, praised the Senate appropriations committee in a statement.

“Today’s news is an important step toward getting the Army Corps to release this report so we can stop invasive species like Asian carp from entering our Great Lakes,” Stabenow said. “This report is especially urgent given that a live silver carp was recently discovered just nine miles from Lake Michigan. There is no time to waste, and I will work with my colleagues to make sure this language becomes law.”

The $8 million Army Corps study initiated two years ago looked into environmental effects of particular ways to stop Asian carp from swimming past Brandon Road. Options could include a new engineered channel, an electric barrier, water-propulsion jets and noise cannons.

“We think the report is important and again partially based on some initial indications we had that it might include discussion of a second electric barrier as an interim measure,” said James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. “We think that is a very important possibility that needs to be explored to try to provide that added protection until a permanent solution can be designed.”

mgerstein@detroitnews.com

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