The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee held their Chicago public meeting before a packed house on Friday afternoon. This was the first of two public meetings discussing the $78.5 million federal plan of action.
The plan called for using the locks less, aggressive treatments of the fish killer rotenone in places where the asian carp is detected, more electric barriers, flood barriers, and lots of studies and research in locating and biologically and chemically controlling the asian carp.
Most of the people at the emotionally charged meeting worked in the shipping or tourism industry along the Chicago locks. Their message was clear: they didn’t want any permanent or temporary closing of the locks of any kind, saying that it would drive them out of business.
There were a few patterns of attack by opponents of lock closure. The method of eDNA was attacked repeatedly throughout the meeting. One employee for Chicago Water Taxi said that he threw out a hairbrush recently so his DNA is in a landfill that he never visited. It is true that independent peer review of eDNA has not been completed yet. It should be finished around June, but in the meantime officials are taking any eDNA results seriously.
Another commonly echoed sentiment was that there was not yet sufficient proof that the asian carp could even live in the Great Lakes. People pointed out that random asian carp have been found in Lake Erie over the years and there has never been evidence of a sustainable population. The truth is it is not known for sure what will happen if the asian carp get into Lake Michigan. The common consensus among experts seems to be that it is not a chance worth taking.
Environmentalists hammered away at the same message that the only way to truly stop the asian carp was ecological separation. The people in favor of closing the locks were definitely in the minority at the meeting. Anytime ecological separation was mentioned there was only isolated clapping.
Meanwhile the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still standing behind their electric barriers. The second barrier should be up and running by October of this year, and they have plans for a 3rd electric barrier. One commenter that was in favor of closing the locks raised the point that the reason the first electric barrier was originally built, was to keep the round goby out of the Mississippi watershed and that it ultimately failed to do so.
Despite the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ preference for electric barriers, the time period does not seem reasonable. Even though in the recent plan they have $13 million to expedite the second barrier, it still won’t be fully operational until October. While they may plan to build another electric barrier, Rebecca Humphries Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment pointed out that it has taken six years to build the second barrier and it is still not fully operational.
While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has ruled out closing the locks as a short-term solution, they are basically relying on using the locks less based on these four scenarios:
“Alternative 1 – No action; Chicago and O’Brian Locks operate as normal
Alternative 2 – Modified Structural Operations – Close each week; Chicago and O’Brian Locks open 3-4 days every week, a significant reduction from current ‘show and go’ operations. Checking potential to place screens on the sluice gates and the lock gates during periods of closure.
Alternative 3 – Modified Structural Operations – Close one week / month; Chicago and O’Brian Locks closed to navigation one week per month starting in April 2010.
Alternative 4 – Modified Structural Operations – Close every other week; Chicago and O’Brian Locks closed to navigation two weeks per month starting in April 2010.”
Along with the USGS they plan to tag asian carp to see if they can get past the electric barrier. Other measures are very focused on studies and reports about eDNA and monitoring as well as the assumption that some new technological innovation or biological control will be discovered quickly enough to somehow stop the asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes while simultaneously keeping the locks open indefinitely.
The federal asian carp plan doesn’t seem to have any reasonable timeline. It seems that the plan is geared towards dealing with the asian carp after they have invaded Lake Michigan. There are no quick snappy actions other than the willingness to throw a lot of money at the problem.
Here are some good stories on the event:
Dan Egan Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Asian carp proposal isn't pleasing many
Environmentalists want stronger carp control plan
This is the federal asian carp plan
Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework