Asian carp—the giant invasive fish that have been moving up the Mississippi River for the better part of a decade–are getting close to the Great Lakes, and in fact some may have already crossed the barrier. For the lakes’ protectors, this is a near-doomsday scenario: Many fear that the ravenous carp could destroy the ecosystem by gobbling up the food that native fish depend on. This week the White House proposed a plan that would devote nearly $80 million to stopping the fish’s advance, but it’s not pleasing many people around the issue.
On one side, many environmentalists, as well as people who rely on Great Lakes fishing for their livelihood, have called on the federal government to shut down locks that connect the river to Lake Michigan. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm says, “The economic damage from these carp coming into the Great Lakes system would be irreparable…. They should shut the locks down until they get these other measures in place, and permanently have a solution to separating these two water systems” [Detroit News]. Granholm and other governors from the region met recently to try to craft another solution after the Supreme Court ruled that Illinois didn’t have to close the locks to stop the carp if it didn’t choose to.
Naturally there’s one group that would be mightily upset at closing the shipping locks: shipping companies. Illinois Rep. Judy Biggert said efforts to close locks and restrict barge and boat traffic in Chicago waterways would damage the local economy and have far-reaching national implications [Detroit Free Press]. The administration’s compromise plan would call for occasional closures of the locks, and though it would only conduct a long-range study of full closure, shipping representatives have still balked at that.
The federal plan is full of bizarre-sounding alternatives to closing the locks, too. Among them: barriers using sound, strobe lights and bubble curtains to repel carp and biological controls to prevent them from reproducing. They’re promising measures – but still on the drawing board [AP]. The plan would also bolster the system of electrical defenses in the water, intended to emit shocks that either scare the carp away or knock them unconscious. But since Asian carp DNA has now been found upstream of those barriers, it seems that at least some fish are slipping through.
The White House is set to brief the public on its plan this afternoon. But while they’re trying to play peacemaker in a money fight between states, they shouldn’t expect a rosy reception from anyone.
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Image: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service