Authorize plan, end threat of Asian carp to Lake Erie
After four long years of study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently released a comprehensive plan to ease the dire threat to our Great Lakes region posed by a supersized enemy fish.
That aquatic terrorist is better known as the invasive Asian carp, which can weigh up to 100 pounds and leap up to 10 feet into the air. It’s aptly labeled an “injurious species” by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
They’ve seriously injured legions of boaters and fishermen, they’ve pillaged the natural food chain of critical aquatic life, and they’ve threatened to destroy the viability of the lake’s $7 billion fishing industry and $15 billion boating industry, let alone the purity of drinking water for 35 million Americans.
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 100 years.
As such, the new report merits serious attention, broad-based support and swift action to implement.
The study stands as a blueprint for planning and preventing the carp from migrating en masse from the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes. Nearby Lake Erie has been deemed particularly vulnerable.
The Corps proposes installing a massive network of electrical fences, noise generators and water jets at a dam near Chicago to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
As one might expect, however, such security for one of our nation’s most valuable natural resources won’t come cheap. The report estimates constructing the sophisticated barrier will cost $778 million, a shocking contrast to the $275 million estimated 16 months ago. That massive cost spiral may give some pause. It should not.
A simple cost-benefit analysis would indicate the loss of billions of dollars to the Great Lakes economy and untold damage to the nation’s ecosystem makes the plan responsible forward-thinking public policy.
But the longer the delays continue, the greater the risks become.
BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR ACTION
Fortunately, our region’s elected state and federal officials have long recognized the potential peril posed by the invasive carp that eat like pigs, breed like bunnies and rip asunder any aquatic life in its path.
Newly inaugurated Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, for example, has long stood on the front lines of controlling the fish’s flow. As a U.S. senator, he introduced both the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act and the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act.
Just last week, DeWine responded to the new report, calling for urgent action.
“Time and time again, those of us who care about the health and vitality of the Great Lakes and the tremendous economy they support have sounded the alarm on the need for fast, effective action to prevent the spread of Asian carp and other aquatic nuisance species to one of our country’s most valuable natural resources,” he said.
Ohio’s new chief executive also called on federal officials to fully sponsor and fully fund the recommended remediation. That call is legitimate in that the Great Lakes shine as a national treasure.
Given that Congress will have final say on authorizing and financing the plan, it is encouraging that the broad mission of minimizing the dangers of invasive species has received broad bipartisan support.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, was one of 28 federal legislators who signed a letter to the Corps last year urging expeditious completion of the study. It read, in part:
“With the Asian carp on the doorstep of our region’s most vital natural resource, we have a small window of opportunity to stop this invasive species. Once the Asian carp are in the Great Lakes, it will be too late to stop the destruction they will cause.”
Given the contentious debate over President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, it is indeed refreshing to see Democrats and Republicans alike unite behind the demonstrated need for a sophisticated barrier to protect and preserve a vital segment of our region’s economy and protect a sparkling gem of our national ecosystem.
All players involved must now demonstrate the will to channel the promising plan into meaningful action.