Citizens Want Army Corps of Engineers to Stop Asian Carp, Now

In a packed house at the Michigan League on the University of Michigan campus, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers(USACE) presented its options for trying to keep Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. The public response was near unanimous: separate the watersheds, and don’t take so long to do it.
“The Great Lakes are in our DNA,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow(D-Michigan), who was the first in a long line of speakers to tell the USACE that Asian carp must be kept out of Lake Michigan and that 25 years is too long to do it, as the USACE estimates. Stabenow also mentioned the eDNA of Asian carp, which was recently found in Lake Michigan, in urging the USACE to urgency in separating the watersheds.
The eight options ranged from continuing current measures, like electric barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), to physical barriers that would permanently separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds near their historic divide, before they were artificially connected by the CAWS over a hundred years ago. It is this system of canals that allows Asian carp a pathway to the Great Lakes.
The USACE expects the options for physical separation to cost over $15 billion and take 25 years to complete, due to flood control structures and tunnels that have to be constructed. The citizens who provided public comment agreed that Asian carp won’t wait 25 years (it only took them 20 to get from the southern Mississippi to the CAWS) and that while $15 billion is a lot of money, it pales in comparison the damage that Asian carp would cause to the Great Lakes fishery, which is valued at $7 billion annually.
Citizens providing comment ranged from representatives of groups like Ducks Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, and Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the Metro West chapter of Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association, to individuals who told the USACE of their personal connections to the Great Lakes.
“You’re being too modest,” said Gildo Tori of Ducks Unlimited, addressing the USACE. He said they were capable of great things, including physically separating the watersheds on quicker timetable.
“Our members prioritize physical separation of the watersheds,” said Drew YoungeDyke, grassroots manager of Michigan United Conservation Clubs.  “And obviously 25 years is too long, given how quickly Asian carp have moved up the Mississippi to get here.”
Michigan United Conservation Clubs is part of a coalition supporting a citizen initiative to create a $1 million emergency response fund for Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The initiative would also allow the Natural Resources Commission to name game species and issue fisheries orders using sound science, and provide free hunting and fishing licenses to active military members. More information about the initiative and petition to enact it can be found at www.citizenswildlife.org.
This was one of six public meetings scheduled by the USACE, including two in Michigan. They will host a meeting Thursday at 4:00 in Traverse City at the Hagerty Conference Center on the Great Lakes campus of Northwestern Michigan College.

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