New Report on Asian Carp Brings More Questions Than Answers

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Dont be this guy.
  • Don't be this guy.
Asian carp. Whoo-ee these little humongous bastards could be a big problem for the Great Lakes.

A new report published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers details the current state of Asian carp (one of 13 "aquatic nuisance species") and poses eight solutions for keeping them out of the lakes. The immediate problem now (on top of heaps of other problems) is that these solutions are pricey. Think $18 billion to build a wall separating the Mississippi River from Lake Michigan.

Here's a rundown of the proposals:

1. Do nothing. (This probably won't fly.)
2. Monitor and manage water systems without constructing structural controls.
3. Set up treatment plants near Chicago and use locks and electric barriers to control the waters.
4. Something technologically similar to No. 3, but with a multi-point lock and electric barrier setup.
5. Physically separating the water basins of the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan.
6., 7., and 8. Hybrids of the technological and the physical construction models.

Accompanying information for all of these proposals is available online. (Also, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will host a public meeting at Cleveland Public Library from 4 - 7 p.m. Jan. 16.)

At odds among the proposed solutions, unsurprisingly, are environmental and business interests. Here's a quick take from the Sandusky Register, which has been covering Asian carp issues for a long time:

Environmentalists on [a recent] conference call said, however, a physical separation is the only option that should be considered.

“It’s time to get away from Band-Aid approaches and toward a long-term, comprehensive and permanent solution,” said Robert Hirschfeld, water policy specialist for the Prairie Rivers Network.

American Waterways Operators, a trade group representing the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, issued a statement saying separating the Mississippi and Great Lakes systems, which the group called “two of our nation’s most important waterborne superhighways,” would damage commerce and said physical separation is not economically feasible.

One of the central reasons that Asian carp infiltration in the Great Lakes is such a big issue is that the species is incredibly aggressive. Asian carp have shown an ability to adapt to new environments and strip them of resources, food, and habitable space. Their introduction to the Lakes would alter the ecosystem and the fishing industry completely. They've already been spotted in the Great Lakes, making the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' input even more timely and important.

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