Wednesday, February 10, 2010

House Hearing On Asian Carp Control Strategy

Feb 9: On February 9, despite weather conditions that nearly shut down Washington, DC, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Chaired by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) held a hearing on "Asian Carp and the Great Lakes." Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD, Vice Chair) presided over the hearing. Full Committee Chairman, Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) also delivered a statement. Those scheduled to testify include: U.S. EPA; Army Corps of Engineers: Illinois DNR; Michigan DNRE; Wisconsin DNR; University of Notre Dame;  Great Lakes Fishery Commission; Canal Barge Company, Inc. on behalf of The American Waterways Operators; and Alliance for the Great Lakes. The Obama Administration, including officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Coast Guard had unveiled their draft Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework (Framework), outlining over 25 short and long-term actions and $78.5 million in investments to combat the spread of Asian carp on the previous day [See WIMS 2/9/10].
    Chairman Oberstar stated, "To be clear, this is a challenge that we cannot fail to meet. We must do everything within our power to prevent the Asian carp from entering the Lakes. . .  Where things start to diverge is on the evaluation of other short-term and long-term Asian carp prevention efforts. These measures include the evaluation of operational changes of the existing navigation locks, and the possibility of an "ecological separation" between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins. I recognize that each of these options poses a unique challenge, not only in terms of protecting the Great Lakes, but in ensuring the continued economic livelihood of the communities along the Mississippi River and Great Lakes, as well as protecting their public health and safety.
    "Yet, we must move forward, in an expeditious manner, to evaluate all of these options fairly, and then make a rational decision on how best to address the threat of the Asian carp. We cannot tip the scales in either direction before we start this evaluation. Let's be begin by applauding the work to protect the Lakes undertaken thus-far by the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency. It is heartening to start a hearing, such as this, with a word of praise for the seemingly fluid coordination of the Federal agencies. This is a welcome change. The challenge ahead is great. Yet, we must work together to expeditiously resolve the best course of action to preserve the economic and ecological health of the Great Lakes waters."
    Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment Director made several recommendations that echoed Governor Granholm's rejection of the Administration's Framework Strategy. Among her recommendations Humphries called for immediately "closing and ceasing operation of the O'Brien Lock and the Chicago Lock until a permanent ecological barrier is constructed between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed. The Army Corp of Engineers must have the authority to close the locks on emergency and permanent bases if necessary. . ."
    Michigan outlined some interim measures but ultimately called for "Developing and implementing plans for a permanent solution to the problems that would ecologically and physically separate the carp-infested waters of the Mississippi River watershed from the Great Lakes."
    The hearing produced no resolutions and significant differences in proposed control strategies still exist.
    Access information on the House Asian Carp hearing including an 8-page briefing report, links to all testimony and a video (click here). Access an Administration release on the Framework (click here). Access the 46-page Framework (click here). Access the Asian Carp Coordinating Committee website for extensive details and background (click here).