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Clock Ticks on Asian Carp Solution

Groups say Asian carp are approaching the doorsteps of Lake Michigan. Credit: USFWS/Flickr
Groups say Asian carp are approaching the doorsteps of Lake Michigan. Credit: USFWS/Flickr
November 9, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – As Asian carp edge closer to Lake Michigan, some environmental groups say the clock is ticking on a solution to keep the fish out.

The invasive species has been moving north in the Mississippi River Basin and two were recently discovered in the Illinois River about 12 miles closer to Lake Michigan than last thought.

Marc Smith, policy director in Michigan for the National Wildlife Federation, says the fish are quite a threat because they spawn up to twice a year and out-compete all the native fish.

"They breed like mosquitoes and eat like hogs, so they definitely make a nuisance out of the river system they're in,” he explains. “And they are approaching the doorsteps of Lake Michigan, utilizing the Chicago area waterway canal as a pathway to come into our Great Lakes."

Electrical barriers are being used to prevent the fish from moving into Lake Michigan, but Smith says those barriers are not fail proof and a permanent barrier is needed to completely stop them.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan last week pressed the Obama administration to take swift action to respond to the threat.

Smith says the National Wildlife Federation has been working with the shipping industry, and federal and state agencies over the past several years to find a consensus on how to stop the carp from getting into the Great Lakes while maintaining and enhancing navigation.

He contends that the technology, infrastructure and engineering are available to build a permanent barrier.

"It has been shown that we can do it,” he states. “What is lacking is the political will to move forward to find a solution that will stop carp from coming in 'cause if they do get into the Great Lakes, the economic value, the ecological value of our Great Lakes will be put at risk."

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a physical barrier would take more than two decades to complete at a price tag of more than $15 billion.

Mary Kuhlman/Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - MI