A clear and present danger looms larger by the day in the Great Lakes region that threatens the economic and environmental livelihood of 35 million residents.
To many in our region, that danger remains invisible. To all in our region, that danger poses significant risks that must be tackled pronto.
That danger is the deadly Asian carp, a breed of fish that can grow as large as 4 feet long and can weigh as much as 100 pounds. These underwater enemies eat like hogs, breed like bunnies and rip asunder any ecosystem in their path.
The Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative call the carp the greatest damaging invasive species that has entered the Great Lakes in the last century.
That’s why the recent urgent plea from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown for more swift and aggressive action to prevent an invasion of Asian carp into Lake Erie must resonate with our power brokers and policy makers in Washington.
“Ohioans cannot afford excuses and foot-dragging any longer,” the Ohio Democrat said.
Brown’s remarks came in response to the Obama administration’s most recent smoke-and-mirrors trickery that gives only the appearance of a realistic and timely remedy.
The administration’s carp czar John Goss announced last month that the federal government will spend about $50 million this year to shield the Great Lakes from the fiendish fish, including water sampling to see if Asian carp have already migrated into the lakes.
That plan, however, carries a time frame of five years for real action, time that would give the carp, whose importation from Asia to America has been outlawed, sufficient time to migrate from rivers in Illinois where they’ve been detected to the largest and most pristine body of freshwater in the world — the Great Lakes.
Breaking that passageway by constructing a physical barrier between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin has been endorsed by every Great Lakes state except Illinois and by numerous environmental groups. Chicago-area business and political interests, however, have fought it aggressively. Many in Illinois endorse a pussy-footing approach, fearing disruption to the Chicago-area economy.
It’s long past time for the Obama administration to rise above such parochialism and stalling tactics from the president’s home state. Doing so only intensifies charges of political gamesmanship from the highest office in the land.
Instead it’s time for conscientious senators and representatives in Congress to act quickly to pass Sen. Brown’s legislation, the Stop Asian Carp Act. It would direct the Corps of Engineers to end in 18 months instead of five years its study of how best to separate the Great Lakes from the waterways around Chicago and halt the growing dangers posed by the carp.
The Great Lakes provide nearly 35 million people with drinking water, and they support tourism and fishing industries that generate an estimated $7 billion in economic activity each year.
Can we at last muster the will to stop the Asian carp’s potentially tragic assault on our ecosystem, or must we continue to let petty politics risk the very future of those natural and economic treasures to our state and our nation?