Lawmakers urge haste in plan to keep Asian Carp from Great Lakes

Sen. Portman said if Asian Carp get into the Great Lakes, they could jeopardize Ohio’s fishing and tourism industries

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2010 file photo, Asian bighead carp swim in an exhibit at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. On Thursday, Dec. 2, 2011, a federal judge in Chicago ruled against five states hoping to stop Asian Carp from invading the Great Lakes by closing Chicago-area shipping locks. Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin officials wanted the locks closed and barriers installed to prevent the giant fish from slipping into the lakes and potentially decimating a $7 billion-a-year fishing industry. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2010 file photo, Asian bighead carp swim in an exhibit at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WCMH) – This week, the Army Corps of Engineers released its recommendations on how to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. It plans to take public suggestions until September 21.

Ohio Senator Rob Portman praised the release of the study, saying if Asian Carp get into the Great Lakes it could jeopardize Ohio’s $7 billion fishing industry and $10 billion tourism industry.

Senator Sherrod Brown agrees the Asian Carp pose a serious threat. He was pushing for the release of the study throughout the summer.

Congress and environmental groups seem to agree this plan is progress, but there’s still plenty of work to do.

One of the things that keeps me up at night is a big fish,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.

These jumping fish — called Asian Carp — are making their way toward the Great Lakes.

Senator Stabenow said the invasive species could devastate the Great Lakes ecosystem and its multi-billion dollar economy.

“They’d eat other fish,” she said. “We’d see boating, fishing, recreation industries be impacted because these fish respond to loud noises. Jump out of the water, knock people off jet skis and so on.”

The Army Corps of Engineers’ was supposed to release its $275 million plan in February, but the White House blocked the release for its own review.

Some members of Congress criticized the delay, saying Asian Carp are moving fast — and there’s no time to waste.

“I’m very concerned that we don’t yet have permanent solutions,” Stabenow said.

The plan recommends underwater sound systems that scare fish, electrical barriers and upgrades to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam to keep carp in the Mississippi river from migrating to Lake Michigan.

Collin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said the plan is promising, but carp have already been spotted nearby, and officials need to move quickly.

“Being nine miles away is not that far, so having to get not just the plan done but the funding done and make sure the systems are put in place as fast as humanly possible,” O’Mara said.

O’Mara said if any Asian Carp get into the Great Lakes before permanent solutions are in place, it will be too late.

“These are fish that grow huge. They can be up to 100 pounds; they eat everything in their path,” she said. “Once they’re in the system and they begin to breed, you’ll probably never get them out of the Great Lakes.”

Dozens of Michigan County Commissioners were at the White House Tuesday, talking to administration officials. They said Asian Carp and Great Lakes funding were big topics of conversation. They said they wanted to be sure the federal officials understand how critical the situation is for the Great Lakes region.

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