Feds’ action on Asian carp crisis doesn’t meet rhetoric

Federal officials were in Chicago this week to tell us once again what a great job they’re doing to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.

I appreciate the work of government employees who are trying to keep these menacing fish from storming the Great Lakes. But let’s not get carried away.

This broken record of federal officials congratulating themselves is tiresome and disingenuous.

John Goss, who is President Obama’s point man on the Asian carp crisis, has said repeatedly at meetings around the region that the Obama Administration’s effort to keep invasive fish out of the Great Lakes is “proactive, aggressive and unprecedented.”

Unprecedented? I’d agree with that.

The Obama Administration has committed more than $78 million to the Asian carp fight. President George W. Bush didn’t allocate nearly as much money to the issue during his eight years in office.

But is the Obama Administration’s work on the Asian carp crisis proactive and aggressive?


Federal officials have known for more than a decade that Asian carp that escaped fish farms in Arkansas were migrating up the Mississippi River — toward the Great Lakes. Yet, they did little more than install an electric fish barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

The truth is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed the electric fish barrier, an unproven technology,  in the Chicago shipping canal in 2002 to prevent invasive round gobies in Lake Michigan from spreading to the Mississippi River system.

Gobies spread far beyond the electric barrier by the time it was completed. So the Corps decided to repackage the electric fence as an Asian carp barrier.

Scientific data indicates that Asian carp have penetrated the barrier and are on the verge of invading Lake Michigan. So much for being proactive.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year finally launched a study of how best to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River system from invading the Great Lakes. But that study won’t be completed until mid-2015 at the earliest and the Corps will likely take several more years after that to implement a solution.

As the Corps dithers, Asian carp are bearing down on the Great Lakes.

National Wildlife Federation and 100 other conservation groups recently asked the Corps to improve its Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (read the letter here).

Anglers, boaters and conservationists are furious and frustrated by the government’s sluggish response to this looming economic and ecological disaster and rightfully so. Asian carp could lay waste to the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery.

What’s a person to do?

For starters, tell President Obama to order the Corps to speed up completion of the GLMRIS study.

Then, tell your representative in Congress to push for approval of the Stop Asian Carp Act of 2011. The legislation would force the Corps to speed up its GLMRIS study and treat the Asian carp crisis like the ecological emergency it is. Go here to see if your member of Congress supports the legislation.

Politicians from this region often label themselves as champions of the Great Lakes. Now is their chance to prove it — by voting for the Stop Asian Carp Act.