The White House responds to calls for a Great Lakes summit to protect the lakes and their $7 billion sportfishing industry from the invasive species.
Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court rejection of Michigan’s request to immediately sever the connections between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan continues to reverberate, from the White House to the U.S. Congress and across the border in Ontario.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox sought the request as part of a larger effort to permanently cut off the carp-infested Illinois River from the Great Lakes and protect the lakes’ $7 billion sportfishing industry from irreparable harm. Asian carp, which can grow to 100 pounds and four feet long, have displaced native fish along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The carp were imported decades ago for use in Southern states to clean the ponds of catfish farmers, but subsequently escaped into the Mississippi and began migrating north.
Since Cox filed his suit, the states of Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, along with Ontario, Canada, have announced their support to seal off the Great Lakes from the invasive species. Illinois opposes the effort, as does the American Waterways Operators, a national trade association representing the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry. Because the Chicago-area canals are used to transport millions of dollars worth of goods and commodities each year, the trade organization warns that closing them could increase transportation prices and cost hundreds of people in the barge transportation industry their jobs.
Immediately after the Supreme Court decision, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle called for a summit with White House officials to discuss the brewing controversy. The Obama administration, which initially sided with Illinois, responded positively to the call for an Asian carp summit Wednesday, ABC News reported. The White House Council on Environmental Quality has proposed holding a meeting the first week of February with governors from the Great Lakes states.
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) brought the fight to Congress when he submitted a bill dubbed the CARP ACT — Close All Routes and Prevent Asian Carp Today — which directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take action to prevent the entry of the fish into the Great Lakes. The bill calls for immediate closure of two Chicago-area locks until a controlled lock operations strategy is developed, installation of interim barriers in several Chicago-area channels into Lake Michigan, and enhancement of existing barriers and monitoring systems.
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) joined Camp’s effort Friday, introducing the legislation in the U.S. Senate. That same day, all 17 Michigan members of Congress called for federal agencies to give them a comprehensive plan on how to keep Asian carp from taking over the Great Lakes by the first week of February. The call came in a joint letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard and Fish and Wildlife Service.
Across the U.S.-Canada border, Ontario’s attorney general filed a U.S. Supreme Court motion Thursday in support of Cox’s lawsuit, CTV.ca News reported. Ontario is the only Canadian province that borders the Great Lakes.
Ontario Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield told CTV.ca News that an Asian carp invasion would devastate the fishing industry on Ontario’s Lake Erie shore — home to one of the world’s largest freshwater commercial perch and bass fisheries.
“It’s a huge impact in terms of the billions of dollars for Ontario,” Cansfield said, estimating that sportfishing alone is worth about $1 billion to the province. “You’re talking the drinking water and the source of recreation. We want to protect our water too. We’re going to support the efforts of the states that are involved.”