It was yet another contentious asian carp meeting in Ypsilanti on Wednesday. There were busloads of shipping advocates from the Chicago passenger ferry industry and shipping industry. Their message was clear: any temporary or permanent closure of the locks would be in the words of a spokesperson for Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), "Absolutely devastating." The other messages that were hammered home was that the eDNA method by Notre Dame researchers was unproven and unreliable and that the locks are not water tight. Many also voiced concern that they did not have any industry representation involved n the process of developing a solution.
Almost the entire question session was dominated by shipping advocates. At one point an audience member yelled from the crowd "These are not technical questions, this is lobbying." Shortly after that outburst tensions remained high as a shipping advocate accused The Nature Conservancy's Lindsay Chadderton (who was representing the eDNA science) of laughing at him. "Your laughing, I'm just a common man," he then went on to ask how accurate the eDNA was percentage wise, when that answer couldn't be given the man retorted "so I'm supposed to take your word for it that it actually works?" Earlier on in Chadderton's presentation he explained how there was peer review of the science but that nothing has been published yet since everything is happening so fast. In last weeks Chicago carp meeting officials said peer reviews should be published by June.
Shipping industry advocates continued to dominate the first half of the public comment period giving the feeling that there was only one dominate viewpoint to the large group of assembled people. That changed in the second half of the public comment period as more environmentalists that advocated ecological separation began to get out their message. All in all I counted 23 comments for the shipping industry and 21 viewpoints for ecological separation of the locks and for more aggressive measures to be taken.
There was also a presence of charter boat captains that depend on the fishery that were concerned about their jobs but they were far less organized than shipping advocates.
Much of the environmentalist perspective focused on ecological separation, and the failures of the federal government in dealing with invasive species in the past. It was pointed out that the electric barrier was originally installed to stop the round goby from getting into the Mississippi watershed and ultimately failed to do so. One man with the Ohio Great Lakes Fishery Commission criticized the feds saying that they "Don't do anything until you can prove it's a problem." Other concerns pleaded that this is the chance to finally get it right and separate the invasive species pathway for good. It was pointed out that several other invasive species are in danger of using the pathway to get in the Great Lakes and vice versa.
The only two politicians that actually showed up to the meeting were Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Dingell said the "Very best thing we can do, is close the locks." Stabenow echoed that sentiment and urged a quicker emergency response to the situation.
The award of best new word of the day has to go to Port Huron's Judy Ogden for "carpageddon."
One man had a copy of former Muskegon Chronicle reporter Jeff Alexander's book Pandora's Locks that he said everyone should read to learn more. I agree. It is an excellent book that explains in a measured non biased way of how we are where we are with invasive species. It is a long complicated story that Alexander has referred to in interviews as a "slow motion wildfire."
Jeff Alexander's Website
Great Lakes Echo Interview with Jeff Alexander about Pandora's Locks
What actions have been taken recently?
According to Charlie Wooley who is Midwest Deputy Regional Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, they have 2 weeks access to a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to get biologists out to where they need to be to look for asian carp. They have 3 more additional boats out gill netting and electrofishing. They are focusing on warm water areas since the asian carp prefer warmer water. Commercial fishing boats are even helping out looking for asian carp.