Bill would require project to block Asian carp

A member of Congress proposed legislation Wednesday that would order the federal government to cut off links in Chicago waterways between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River system to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp and other invasive species.
AP Wire
Feb 9, 2014

The bill introduced by Rep. Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct barriers in rivers and canals that were reconfigured more than a century ago to connect the two giant watersheds. That project boosted waterborne commerce but created a pathway through which fish, mussels and other aquatic animals and plants could stake out new territories and compete with native species.

"That should never have been allowed to happen and certainly would never be allowed today," Miller said, adding that the linkage also allows vast amounts of Great Lakes water to flow toward the Mississippi. "That must end."

The linkage has allowed nuisance species such as the round goby and zebra and quagga mussels to escape the Great Lakes and infest the Mississippi and other waterways. But the threat that Asian carp pose to the Great Lakes has intensified the search for answers.

Silver and bighead carp, imported from Asia in the 1970s, have made their way up the Mississippi and its tributaries, including the Illinois River, which leads to Lake Michigan. Scientists say if the voracious carp reach the lakes, they could unravel food webs and threaten the $7 billion fishing industry.

In a report last month, the Army Corps presented eight options for dealing with the problem, two of which included physically separating the two watersheds. Both carry estimated price tags of at least $15 billion and a 25-year timetable for completion. The Corps has said it's up to Congress to decide which measures the agency should undertake. A message seeking comment Wednesday was left with a spokeswoman.

Mark Biel, chairman of an Illinois business coalition called UnLock Our Jobs, said his group opposes both as too costly and disruptive to shipping and pleasure boating in the Chicago area while worsening the risk of floods. If the government chooses physical separation, opponents likely will file a lawsuit that would delay matters further, he said.

"We need a realistic solution that is affordable and politically palatable," Biel said.

His group favors a Corps alternative that would cost just $68 million and take relatively modest steps using chemicals, nets and watercraft inspections.

Critics say those measures would be inadequate. A recent University of Notre Dame study found that physical separation would stop 95 to 100 percent of Asian carp, while other methods would be markedly less effective.

If enacted, Miller's bill would require the Army Corps to begin designing a separation project within 180 days. When finished, the agency would have 180 days to begin construction.

The bill would allow federal funding but doesn't specify an amount, Miller spokeswoman Salley Wood said.

 

Comments

bigdeal

Good, if this doesn't work we need to bring a convoy of 500-1000 full cement trucks to Illinois and dump it all in that river to close it off. Time for the American people to take it over from the bureaucrats in Ill and seal it off permanently.

Former Grandhavenite

Amen to that. It's crazy that the Illinois, Chicago, Cook County, and federal governments STILL can't (or won't) get their act together to solve this. When the other party we're negotiating against is a horde of hungry carp, they're unlikely to agree to any compromise or decide that since we made a concession by agreeing to have a somewhat weak electrical and chemical barrier rather than the total separation of the two basins, that they'll cut us some slack too and agree not to destroy the Great Lakes sport fishing industry.

The "redneck fishing" tournaments on the Illinois River are pretty funny to watch as the carp are scared by boat noises and jump out of the water by the hundreds though. I'd just hate for that to become the only type of fishing available in the Great Lakes. Boating also would lose a lot of its charm if you and your boat are going to be constantly pelted by flying carp.

Lanivan

Our legislative leaders are so confused - which way should they go?

First: "TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Federal programs designed to make headway on some of the Great Lakes' most longstanding ecological problems, from harbors caked with toxic sludge to the threat of an Asian carp attack, would lose about 80 percent of their funding under a spending plan approved Tuesday by a Republican-controlled U.S. House panel.

The measure would hammer the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has enjoyed bipartisan support since President Barack Obama established it in 2009, based on a priority list endorsed four years earlier by President George W. Bush. Also targeted for a drastic reduction is a low-interest loan fund that helps local governments upgrade aging sewage treatment systems. After an initial $475 million in 2009, the restoration initiative has gotten about $300 million a year, although this year's total has fallen to $285 million because of across-the-board cuts. The subcommittee bill would slash the 2014 allocation to just $60 million.".

But then: "Ironically, the subcommittee's action came the same day that a bipartisan group of House members introduced legislation that would reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Environmental Protection Agency office that oversees Great Lakes programming".

But thank goodness, Illinois is beginning to see the light: Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has also signaled that he supports physically separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

“Ultimately, I think we have to separate the basins … I really feel that is the ultimate solution,” he said during a meeting last June of the Council of Great Lakes Governors".

Former Grandhavenite

Long time Grandhavenites probably remember that for many years every time the area got significant rainfall, the Grand Rapids sewage treatment plant would overflow and spill a huge amount of sewage into the Grand River so that GR was able to export its problem to Grand Haven. Somehow I imagine that if the sewage overflow spilled into the streets of downtown GR it wouldn't have taken as long to upgrade the plant capacity. Lansing's water/sewer system was (and still is to some degree, I believe) guilty of dumping sewage into the Grand as well.

As a kid always wanting to go to the beach it was frustrating that so often there was a "no contact" advisory, and you could even see a disgusting plume of sewage at the end of the channel. We had family in town during one of these events, and it's hard to talk up the area as being a great place to live when there was the pervasive stench of the pulp mill in Muskegon back then made worse by a consistent south wind, and the water was filled with sewage. Further burnishing the area's image, we were in the midst of one of the periodic natural alewife dieoffs, so the beach was covered with thousands of rotting dead alewives with seagulls picking at them. Those particular relatives have not been back to visit during the summer since!

Environmentalists need to do a better job of selling their policies to the free market corporatist types by framing issues in terms of the dollars and jobs at stake, and the image of the area, instead of the more tree hugging aspects such as protecting endangered species.

Lanivan

You are so right, GHite. Rather than looking at environmental issues, climate change, and energy renewables as products primarily within the government domain, the paradigm should switch more in the direction of viewing them as corporate opportunities. Entrepreneurs should be encouraged to propel innovation; let the markets work.

There are many areas for invention and technological innovation - Solar Power, Battery Storage, Smart Grid Technology. Corporate investment is growing in these areas, but so much more could be done to encourage Sustainable Capitalism.

A few weeks ago, I heard a speaker talk about the rationale behind an EDP - Environmental Domestic Product - very interesting. Using the tax code to incentivize businesses to be more environmental, for example.

But, of course, progress is hampered, in part, by the ever-present cries of the Deregulators, the Deniers, the Polluters.

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on the old, but on building the new". Socrates.

Former Grandhavenite

Lately I've really been on a kick trying to understand the thought process and motivation behind different political ideologies, and trying to figure out a way of speaking to someone's concerns and framing the issue in their language even when I disagree.

If someone's highly religious you could talk about the environment in relation to our sacred duty to preserve God's kingdom, cite a few passages of scripture, etc. If they're a 'pro-life' kind of religious conservative you could talk about saving the lives of God's other creatures by not dumping toxic waste, etc, and emphasizing that lots of toxic chemicals are linked to birth defects and sometimes lead to abortions if abnormalities are detected.

If they're a corporatist "free market" type you could talk about the benefits to tourism and the bottom line, and the fact that unless there's some relatively minor efforts to stop polluting at the local level those Big Government bureaucrats from the EPA will come in and we business owners know what a nightmare that can be! "Oh, and did you see that editorial in the Wall Street Journal the other day about how expensive it'll be for all of us if the labor department cracks down on our safety practices? Maybe we should provide some additional safety training of our own to head them off."

Sometimes I wonder if there's actually an in-road to dialog with literally anyone out there and it's just a matter of finding it by using the right terminology, thought patterns, memorizing their party's talking points, mimicking their body language if meeting in person, etc. There has to be a way to break through the wall. As Google is very well aware in advertising- people are more likely to respond if the product, service, or the ad is uniquely targeted to them and addresses their own unique concerns within the framework of their pre-existing beliefs. Everybody wants to have their beliefs confirmed rather than challenged, so let them think that their beliefs are 100% correct, but here is one minor addition or change building on the common sense stuff you already believe in. I'm not sure whether this approach would be more manipulative, or actually more honest than a more old-school political debate.

Tri-cities realist

I will keep this in mind :)

16damons

$15 billion... and/or possibly 25 years to complete? Is this a joke? Was this the first and only bid? You must be kidding me. Stem walls and gravel above the flood plain? Another instance of feds raking the American taxpayer over the coals. Probably would take 2 years to complete... the other 23 years are needed for passing paper so everyone gets paid. This has become a case of political cause/wealth and much, much less to do with environmental impact.

Tri-cities realist

Strange... No kudos to Rep. Miller here from the commenters, although it appears they agree with the bill she introduced. I wonder why?

LessThanAmused

I was wondering that myself TCR as the first thing I did was look to find out who was the first one to step up and try to get something done on this issue.
With a problem of this scope and importance I personally don't give a rats furry butt which side of the political spectrum they're on, as long as they step up and try to get something done for the good of the general public. After all, that is what they're job is suppose to be right?

Wolverine49457

for the time being turn them into fertilizer...smelly but man what great tomatoes!

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