Huizenga leads bipartisan effort to protect Great Lakes

Alex Doty • Mar 4, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Congressman Bill Huizenga is helping lead a bipartisan effort in Congress to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp.

A letter led by U.S. Reps. Huizenga, R-Zeeland; Mike Bishop, R-Rochester Hills; and Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, was sent to President Donald Trump on Friday. It asks that the president personally intervene to help protect the Great Lakes by releasing the first draft of the Brandon Road Report.

According to a report from The Associated Press earlier this week, the Trump administration delayed indefinitely a plan to strengthen defenses on a crucial Chicago-area waterway to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

Signed by 26 members of the U.S. House, the bipartisan letter also requests that Trump instruct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue to work with state and local officials and Great Lakes stakeholders to implement a long-term solution to keep Asian carp out of the lakes.

Huizenga said that it’s important to have accurate, reliable information from the Corps of Engineers in order to protect both the ecosystem and the economy of the Great Lakes.

"Delaying the release of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam evaluation does nothing to stop the threat Asian carp and other invasive species pose to the largest freshwater ecosystem on the planet,” the West Michigan congressman said. “By slow walking this important information, the federal government is jeopardizing the livelihood of hardworking families in Michigan and across the Great Lakes Basin. Time is of the essence."

Bipartisan Letter to President Trump on Scribd

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also spoke out about the news of the delay. Earlier this week, she called on the Trump administration to “fully explain the rationale for this delay” and provide a date for when the plan would be released.

“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,” she said.

The Corps of Engineers had been scheduled to release draft results of a study of possible upgrades at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, a few miles downstream of a network of electrical barriers intended to repel the carp. A final version of the plan was to be released in early 2019.

A corps spokesman said Tuesday that the draft study release "has been deferred pending further coordination" with government officials and advocacy groups, reported the AP.

In a Feb. 23 letter to Trump, 16 Republicans in Congress — mostly from Illinois and Indiana — called for the corps’ study to be delayed until a new assistant secretary of the Army for civil works was appointed. In their letter, they argued that more than 5 million pounds of Asian carp had been removed from the waterway in recent years and the leading edge of the invasive species’ population was still well below Brandon Road.

The corps "should not hastily recommend a structural alternative that could negatively impact the economy and the safety of towboat crews," the lawmakers wrote.

Asian carp were imported in the early 1970s to feed on scummy algae and plants in Southern fish farms and sewage ponds. They escaped into the Mississippi River and have migrated northward since, reaching dozens of tributaries.

Two Asian species — bighead and silver carp — feed on huge volumes of plankton that forms the base of aquatic food chains. They have infested the Illinois River, which connects with other waterways that reach Lake Michigan at Chicago.

Answers to how to keep the carp from the lake have been divisive. Some states want barriers placed in the Chicago waterways, which Illinois and Indiana officials say would disrupt cargo shipping.

The Corps of Engineers has looked into a variety of measures that could be taken at Brandon Road, such as the installation of additional electric barriers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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