Clear And Present Danger

Asian Carp advance on Lake Michigan

Published in the August 2018 Issue February 2019 Feature Vanessa Oler

June 23, 2017, a single Asian carp was found dangerously close to the point of no return. Having slipped through the measures already in place, this lone wolf of sorts represents the inevitable knocking on our doors: an invasive species problem we can’t wait another second to solve. One year later, however, its difficult to see significant results. With eight states and an international border to contend with, logistics on managing any shared resource are bound to be tied up in red tape and bureaucratic heel-dragging. That’s leaving many boaters in the Great Lakes with some weighty questions as to the future of their lifestyle:

If the current preventative measures aren’t enough, what else can we do? Who can I talk to about this? Who has actual power to effect change? Will I even see another year boating on the Great Lakes without Asian carp jumping in my boat? 

“We are in a race against the clock to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes,” Alliance for the Great Lakes Vice President for Policy, Molly Flanagan, says, “with the fish continuing to creep ever closer to Lake Michigan. The status quo on Asian carp is unacceptable.”

What’s Happening Now?

In late January, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced a new partnership with Ohio, Wisconsin and Ontario to block Asian carp. After the battle between the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Congress and President Trump last year, groups aiming to protect the Lakes from further invasion are facing an uphill battle in the funding arena.

Governor Snyder’s partnership, thankfully, does not involve congressionally approved funding. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ projects are funded from two sources: the corps itself and local cost share sponsors. Without commitment from local institutions — states, counties, cities — the projects cannot move forward. Some jurisdictions, including Ohio, Wisconsin and the province of Ontario, have stepped up to commit their own resources and ensure more stringent control measures planned for waterways in Illinois that are still funded. Chicago’s move to join Governor Snyder’s Great Lakes Basin Partnership to Block Asian Carp in March of this year softened the ground for Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to get on board.

“No single state, province or government jurisdiction should have to bear the sole responsibility of keeping invasive carp out of the Great Lakes,” Governor Snyder stated at the partnership’s inception. “Michigan is excited to partner with Ohio, Ontario and Wisconsin and is looking to join with other states and provinces in the Great Lakes Basin to work collaboratively. We need to maximize protection against invasive carp species while partnering to ensure commerce on the waterway is efficient and safe and has the capacity to meet long-term navigation needs.”

The partnership, simply put, is a multijurisdictional coalition that supports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to reduce the risk of invasive carp entering the Great Lakes by upgrading security at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Illinois. The corps’ commissioned study identified the Brandon Road facility as a critical location for implementing additional control measures to stop the movement of Asian carp. It is a logical choke point in the waterways connecting the Mississippi River Basin to the Great Lakes.

“Asian carp pose a clear and present danger to the Great Lakes’ environment and economy, especially our multi-billion dollar tourism and boating sectors,” Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Molly Flanagan says. “The people of the Great Lakes have spoken out repeatedly that they don’t want Asian carp in their lakes. Any further delay on implementing additional Asian carp prevention measures is unacceptable.”

Distilled by the Associated Press, the corps’ plan includes installing new security upgrades, including an electric barrier, noisemakers and water jets at the Brandon Road facility that would attempt to block the carps’ path toward Lake Michigan. The corps calls on local partners outside the Federal Government to pay about $8 million a year for operation and maintenance once the system is up and running. — the homebase for Governor Snyder’s rallying cry — contains information specific to this issue, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan for the Brandon Road facility that dispels some popularly held myths about solutions to the Asian carp invasion. Perhaps most insightful is the breakdown of who is actually going to foot the bill for these preventative measures. Typically, individual states don’t pay for projects in another state’s boundaries, but the threat of Asian Carp will impact everyone beyond repair. By getting involved in this partnership, the cities and states of the Great Lakes are showing a clear willingness to back their words with monetary power. They realize that just saying “stop Asian carp” isn’t enough, and by joining the partnership, they’ve now got skin in the game and a seat at the table.

Michigan is stepping up to take a leadership role due to the urgency of this situation and the efforts necessary to prevent the entry of Asian carp into the Great Lakes,” Snyder said. “Invasive carp pose a huge risk to several of our state’s economic drivers, including tourism and fishing. Our natural resources are what make Pure Michigan so special, and, as a state, we need to do everything we can to protect these resources for generations to come.”

But What Can I Do?

No amount of foot stomping, Facebook posting or angry Tweeting can replace an informed citizen who votes. Between the information housed on Alliance for the Great Lakes’ website and, Great Lakes boaters can easily educate themselves, friends and family and hold their congressional representatives accountable. This is a fight we’re all in together, and apathy is simply no longer an option.

For More Information:

Alliance for the Great Lakes

Great Lakes Basin Partnership to Block Asian Carp

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