Feds Pledge $47 Million To Asian Carp Fight; States Appeal Court Loss

Last week, the Obama administration announced an updated plan, which included additional research but not closing the Chicago locks.

Asian carp czar John Goss pledged to spend $47 million next year on the federal fight against the invasive aquatic species, funding everything from more accurate tests of their presence to better means of trapping, according to the Associated Press. The plan also includes netting and starving the carp that have infested Chicago-area waterways.

“The Obama administration has taken an aggressive, unprecedented approach to protect our Great Lakes and the communities and economies that depend on them from the threat of Asian carp,” Goss said.

In 2010, fences were implemented in the Des Plaines River and the Wabash River to prevent carp migration, in addition to the completion of a third electronic fish barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

New projects planned for 2011 include:

  • Research the effectiveness of environmental DNA testing as a tool to pinpoint where carp have been
  • Develop new traps and net designs for capturing carp and
  • Study the effects of reducing food sources for the plankton-feeding carp by cutting the nitrogen and phosphorous that wastewater treatment plants dump into the waterways

As many as 18 additional locations will be evaluated as potential points of entry to the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River. However, the new plan doesn’t mention closing the Chicago shipping locks, which has been debated in a series of federal court rulings and appeals.

The same day as the federal funding announcement, five Great Lakes states appealed a federal judge’s dismissal of their lawsuit to force faster action on the issue, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania ,and Wisconsin sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in federal court to try and force the closure of Chicago-area shipping locks that could act as a gateway for the invasive fish. State officials fear the carp could establish a breeding population in Lake Michigan and threaten the Great Lakes’ $7 billion sportfishing industry.

On December 2, Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr. ruled that the states failed to prove that the carp pose an imminent threat to the lakes, and questioned the environmental DNA evidence used to demonstrate that some carp have already gotten past the electric barriers designed to keep them out of the lakes. The two sides will return to court January 7, 2011.

The Corps of Engineers is also being criticized for the pace of a massive study into permanently blocking the carp and other invasive species from moving between the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal. During a December 15 public meeting in Chicago, conservation groups criticized the Army Corps for a schedule that put the plan’s completion date in 2015. The original plan was to be finished by 2012.

“We were talking about a two-year timeline six months ago; now we’re talking about a five-year timeline,” Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Major General John Peabody of the Army Corps told the newspaper that the original timeframe was unrealistic given the scope of the study.

Sources: Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Obama Administration Press Release: 2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework

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