Cleveland area residents demand feds take urgent action to keep Asian carp from storming Lake Erie

NWF   |   January 13, 2011
Asian Carp
The Asian Carp threaten the Great Lakes (Credit: Flickr/kate.gardiner)

Federal officials who are soliciting public comment on a study of how to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes got an earful Thursday from Cleveland-area residents.

Their message to federal officials…

Do whatever it takes to keep the menacing fish from invading the Great Lakes and storming Lake Erie’s bountiful fishery. And do it now.

Lake Erie anglers, boaters and conservationists who turned out for a public hearing on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) sharply criticized the Corps’ plan to study the Asian carp threat for at least four more years before recommending a solution.

“We have to have a sense of urgency about these carp — start killing them,” said Cleveland resident Tom Mayher, a longtime Lake Erie angler. “Lake Erie has more fish than all of the other Great Lakes combined; it’s the greatest of the Great Lakes and we’re going to take a beating if you don’t do something soon.”

Asian carp were imported to commercial fish farms in the south in the 1960s. After escaping into the Mississippi River, the fish headed north and are now on the verge of invading Lake Michigan via the Chicago Waterway System, an artificial canal system that links the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

The $25 million GLMRIS study is the Corps’ attempt to figure out how best to halt the movement of Asian carp and  159 other  invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems, which encompass two of North America’s largest watersheds.

The GLMRIS study won’t be completed until mid-2015 at the earliest. A solution could take several more years after that.

National Wildlife Federation and other groups have called on the Corps to create a hydrologic barrier between Lake Michigan and the Chicago Waterway System to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. NWF also wants the Corps to complete the Chicago portion of the GLMRIS study within 18 months.

Several residents who spoke at the Cleveland hearing said the battle to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes could be over by the time the Corps proposes a solution.

Don Arcuri, a longtime Lake Erie angler who is an adviser to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, challenged the Corps of Engineers to uphold its legacy of solving large-scale environmental problems.

“In this nation, when we see a pressing need or imminent threat, we have the capacity to move very rapidly and decisively,” Arcuri said. “The Corps of Engineers’ history is filled with this. The time to be quick and decisive (with regard to Asian carp) is now.”

John Goss, the Obama Administration’s Asian carp czar, said the president has taken “unprecedented and proactive action” to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. He said the federal government has taken more than 45 different actions to control the invasive fish.

“I like to fish and I know the importance of the fishing industry in Lake Erie,” Goss said. “We will do our best to protect that.”

Goss said two electric barriers in the Chicago Waterway System, about 30 miles south of Chicago, are keeping Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. He said the Corps would activate a third electric fish barrier in that canal within a few weeks.

But recent scientific studies indicated Asian carp had breached the electric fish barriers and now have unrestricted access to Lake Michigan.

There is no evidence of a reproducing population of Asian carp anywhere in the Great Lakes. Yet…