Saturday, February 13, 2010

Raucous Chicago Asian Carp Meeting Shows Little Promise for the Lakes

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

John Flesher
Environmentalists want stronger carp control plan

This is the federal asian carp plan
Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework

1 comment:

Don M said...

China has refused to verify emissions in their manufacturing, so now our president wants to limit ours, knowing that huge South American discoveries of oil will be sent with the carbon footprints of ships and their polluted water trail to China, for manufacturing consumer goods, hiding their emissions, so they can then be shipped into our country with a carbon footprint and polluted water trail. Drugs and violence grow on our borders as poverty grows, from lack of manufacturing jobs. It is said that our economy is dependent on China's well being to recover, because of American markets there, or is it dependent on their buying our treasury notes? Either way what should be analyzed, is not wall street and foreign banks interest, but American jobs created by a strong manufacturing economy of consumer goods in our country. To address ballast water dumping of bacterial pathogens and virus with a national program on a quick time line would curtail the destruction of our countries environment, protect world health and slow the importation of goods as China would have to retrofit their shipping industry, which is the largest in the world. The European Union seems to be aggressively pursuing green shipping, this would help supply oil should, this president decide to keep a campaign promise of change for America to go green. It is interesting that this administration and the commander and chiefs, rhetoric about going green have not or will not addressed this issue other than the Coast Guard twenty plus year plan, despite the recent talk again of international dumping of toxic waste in the worlds oceans. They are so against addressing ballast water that even with our Great Lakes being in peril from invasion of Asian carp, knowing of all the previous documentation that fish, human disease and invasive are moved by this venue, they have now only committed to study the problem in the Illinois Sanitary canal. The chance that the barge operators in Illinois will continue normal procedures while they study ballast water is a joke. They will make sure that the waters are clean till they are not checked anymore, then it will be business as usual,and they will then try and show ballast water as not being problematic, it is the economic side of human nature.