News and views, and history and humor, about the lake I love.

"I can hear my granddad's stories of the storms out on Lake Erie, where vessels and cargos and fortunes, and sailors' lives were lost." ~ James Taylor, Millworker

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

States seek solutions to feared Asian Carp invasion

Lake Erie border states Ohio and Pennsylvania are among five states pressing a federal lawsuit demanding the physically separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi systems in a move to try to  prevent invasive species such as Asian carp from migrating between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. And a coalition of attorneys general from 16 states want to push Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite a plan for severing the connection between the two giant drainage basins that engineers constructed a century ago in Chicago rivers and canals.

The Army Corps is working on a long-range study of methods for cutting off potential avenues for species to transfer between the two basins, including separating them by installing dams or other structures. But they say the study won't be completed until 2015, and carrying out whatever the agency recommends could take many more years. Environmental activists, state and local officials, Indian tribes and others across most of the Great Lakes region are pleading with the Corps to move faster. Five states -- Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- are suing to make them.

Many of the states have suffered ill effects of invasions by species such as zebra and quagga mussels, which hitched rides from central Europe to the Great Lakes in the ballast tanks of oceangoing freight ships. After they had colonized the Great Lakes, they moved into the Mississippi basin and have infested waterways as far south as the Arkansas River and west to Lake Mead, which supplies water for drinking and irrigation to much of southern Nevada, southern California and Arizona.

The Corps operates an electric barrier designed to prevent fish from swimming between the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins. Although the agency says it is working well, scientists have detected Asian carp DNA in water samples beyond the barrier, prompting fears that the barrier has failed.

Meanwhile, New York State is poised to begin enforcement of tough new ballast rules next year, but industry groups, members of congress and some Federal officials are pushing back hard, arguing that the regulations set standards that can't be met by existing technology. The want New York's rules scrapped. And they're lobbying the EPA to create national ballast water guidelines that are far less strict.

Many scientists, environmentalists and politicians say that it's only a matter of time before carp eat their way northward into the ultimate Great Lakes bulls-eye: warm, shallow and fish-rich Lake Erie.

Let's look on the bright side. Maybe when the carp get here they'll chow down on all the zebra mussels and goby, and then chase it with a nice helping of algae.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

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