Friday, November 20, 2009

IJC On Asian Carp: "A Battle That We Cannot Afford To Lose"

Nov 19: In letters sent to the Governor of Illinois, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality, the International Joint Commission (IJC) expressed its concerns that Asian carp could invade the Great Lakes by way of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The IJC said it is concerned that the electric barrier could be breached by a single power outage, or that a heavy rain storm could cause flooding that would allow the carp to migrate into the canal from the Des Plaines River.

The IJC indicated it supports the Barrier Advisory Panel's recommendation to construct a physical separation between the Des Plaines River and the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal. The IJC also supports action to close off the canal and Deep Run Creek in a manner that would permit storm water discharge while precluding the passage of Asian Carp. Further, a rapid response effort must be undertaken as soon as possible to push back the Asian carp and allow the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct scheduled maintenance of the electric barrier and complete the construction of a second electric barrier [
See WIMS 11/16/09].

Herb Gray, Canadian Section chair of the IJC said, "We must stop Asian carp and other species before they use the Chicago Sanitary Canal to invade the entire Great Lakes system that is shared by Canada and the United States." Irene Brooks, U.S. Section chair of the IJC said, "Invasive species such as Asian carp are the foremost threat to the biological integrity of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. The impact of invasive species already in the system, from the sea lamprey to the zebra mussel, serve as harbingers of the economic and environmental costs to come if this crucial threat is not controlled."
The letters state, ". . .we urge you to take immediate action to cut through any and all administrative and bureaucratic obstacles that exist. . . so that. . .agencies involved can execute the plans without delay. Response personnel must be given every opportunity possible to eliminate the risk of this invasion by Asian carp and avoid almost certain disastrous economic and environmental consequences to the Great Lakes, a unique resource shared between the United States and Canada. This is a battle that we cannot afford to lose."

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on November 19, that the "decade-old battle to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes might be over." Citing new Asian Carp DNA research that shows the fish likely have made it past the $9 million electric fish barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Information released by the Chicago District of the Army Corps of Engineers on November 20, indicates areas above the electric barrier on the Calumet Sag Channel as far as the Obrien Lock where Asian Carp DNA was recently detected. The sampling was done on October 10, 2009.

On November 20, reacting to the new testing showing the presence of Asian carp DNA past the electric barrier and adjacent to the O’Brien Lock just 6 miles south of Lake Michigan in the Calumet River, the Alliance for the Great Lakes joined other conservation groups including National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes United, and the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition in calling for an immediate closure of all Chicago waterways and locks leading to Lake Michigan "in a last-ditch attempt to keep the destructive Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes."

The groups demanded that "the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state of Illinois close the O'Brien, Chicago River and Wilmette locks until monitoring results show the waterways are completely clear of bighead and silver carp and that an electric barrier built to keep them out of Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes has not been breached."

Access a release from IJC (
click here). Access the letters (click here). Access the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article (click here). Access the Army Corps information (click here). Access the Army Corps website for more information on the Asian Carp migration (click here). Access a release from the Alliance with links to additional information (click here). Access a report from the Detroit Free Press (click here).