Youngsters deliver powerful message on Asian carp

Ten-year-old Thomas Ridge stepped up to the microphone at Tuesday’s government hearing on how best to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and proceeded to bring down the house.

The fifth-grade student at Notre Dame Marist Academy in suburban Detroit pleaded with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River system from invading the Great Lakes.

“If these fish get in, the Great Lakes won’t be so great,” Ridge said at the hearing in Ann Arbor, Mich.

It was a simple, profound message from the mouth of a babe.

A few minutes later Ridge’s classmate, 11-year-old Kyle Cragg, delivered the knockout punch.

“I hope to enjoy the fantastic Great Lakes for my lifetime,” Cragg told the Corps. “We must stop Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes at all cost.”

Ridge and Cragg made their comments at the last of 12 public hearings on the $25 million Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study, known as GLMRIS. The study could become the blueprint for how the Corps of Engineers attempts to halt the movement of aquatic invasive species between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins.

The message that Ridge and Cragg delivered Tuesday wasn’t all that different from the comments that scores of adults have made about the GLMRIS study over the past three months.

The difference was the messengers.

Ridge and Cragg displayed a youthful, innocent passion for the Great Lakes. They didn’t delve into the politics of battling invasive species or attack the cumbersome bureaucracy of the federal government.

Instead, Ridge and Cragg brought the looming Asian carp crisis down to the most fundamental level: If allowed to invade the Great Lakes, Asian carp will diminish the grandeur of these incomparable, priceless waters.

The Corps has wrapped up public hearings on the GLMRIS study but will take written comments on the document until March 31.  The study will be completed in 2015, at the earliest. Go here to tell the Corps to complete the study by mid-2012.

The government’s actions in the near future may well determine the fate of the Great Lakes for the foreseeable future. That ‘s why the Corps must pull out all the stops, plow through the agency’s mountain of red tape and spare no expense in its effort to keep Asian carp out of the lakes.

Do it for the children.