Feds showing signs of paranoia in Asian carp fight

Over the past three months, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has tried to build public support for the federal government’s sluggish effort to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River system from invading Lake Michigan via the Chicago Waterway System.

Corps officials have repeatedly said that an electric barrier in the Chicago Waterway System, about 30 miles south of Chicago, is working as intended and keeping Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. The agency makes that claim despite the fact that Asian carp DNA and one live carp have been found miles beyond the electric barrier, near Lake Michigan.

Corps officials have said they have a study that shows the electric barrier is working as designed. But now comes news that the Corps won’t share that study with the public or members of the Corps’ own technical and policy advisory panel.

That revelation came in an excellent article by Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Corps officials told Egan they wouldn’t release the study that proves the fish barrier is working because they fear releasing the document could “harm our internal decision-making process.”

In other words, the Corps is sitting on data that could play a critical role in the government’s effort to prevent an Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes.

This is outrageous behavior for a government agency that is supposed to operate with transparency. It also casts a cloud of suspicion over the Corps’ efforts to prevent an Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes.

The Corps is behaving as if its so-called war on Asian carp is a full-blown military campaign, one in which secrecy is paramount to defeating the enemy.

That obviously is not the case.

The Corps will take at least four more years to complete a study of how best to keep Asian and other invasive species in the Mississippi River system from invading the Great Lakes. Implementing a solution will take several more years.

That’s ridiculous.

It took the U.S. military less than four years to bring an end to World War II.

If the Corps expects the engender trust and support for its effort to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, the agency needs to pick up the pace of its work and share crucial information with the public.

Someone needs to remind the Corps that the enemy it is supposed to be fighting is a monstrous invasive species from Asia that is bearing down on the Great Lakes — not the millions of people who rely on these wondrous lakes for drinking water, commerce and recreation.

The Corps is accepting public comment through March 31 on its Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study, known as GLMRIS. That study will attempt to figure out  how to halt the flow of invasive species between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins.

Now more than ever, the Corps needs to hear from the public that it must complete the GLMRIS study by mid-2012. While you’re at it, demand that the Corps operate with greater transparency. Go here to submit comments to the Corps.