The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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       State Rep. Michael Sheehy (D. House District 46) recently expressed support for a congressional effort to stop the spread of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

        Sheehy, whose district includes Jerusalem Township, Oregon and parts of Toledo in The Press circulation area, introduced similar legislation in the House in 2014.

        His support for the federal legislation comes after some members of Congress from both parties are calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to close an artificial connection between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes – a thoroughfare for the invasive carp to enter the Great Lakes basins.

        Sheehy called the spread of Asian carp an “environmental crisis.”

        “Our Great Lake is facing an environmental crisis on several fronts. While I’ve been working with colleagues to address these issues head-on at the state level, we need all the help we can get,” said Sheehy. “Now that our experts have identified the sources of these threats, we must pursue fact-based policy solutions to combat them.”

Hydrologic separation

        Congress’s latest effort is similar to a resolution Sheehy sponsored in the House in 2014 that called on Congress to work toward total hydrologic separation of the Great Lakes to stop the invasive Asian carp.

        “Taking proactive steps to prevent the spread of invasive species of carp is certainly the most cost-effective strategy in preserving the agricultural, economic and cultural value in our Great Lake,” said Sheehy. “I’m encouraged to find that Lake Erie’s allies in Congress are standing with us to protect the Midwest’s most precious economic resource.”

        Due to their large size and rapid rate of reproduction, Asian carp could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes ecosystem and the economies of the Great Lakes states, which has a fishing industry valued at $7 billion annually. They can dominate aquatic ecosystems by out-competing native fish for food and habitat, like perch, bass and walleye, which are fish found in Lake Erie.

        “As they feed near the base of the food chain, they can cause an entire system to become unstable. This is particularly concerning because Lake Erie is the walleye capital of the world and a part of the Lake Erie fishing industry,” Sheehy said in testimony before the Ohio House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources..

        Sheehy believes that the spread of Asian carp, which have been found in the Mississippi River, could be stopped by the hydrological separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. The separation could be accomplished by rerouting the Chicago Area Waterway System.

        The resolution had urged Congress to approve and fund hydrological separation, estimated to cost between $3.2 billion and $9.5 billion, according to a study from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and Great Lakes Commission.

       

Breed like mosquitoes

        Asian carp are an invasive species that were brought to the U.S. to control weeds in aquaculture ponds in the South and escaped into the Mississippi River during a flood.

        “These fish breed like mosquitoes, spawning multiple times a year, and eat like hogs consuming up to 20 percent of their body weight,” said Sheehy. “They can grow to more than four feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds, and some Asian carp can jump several feet out of the water when disturbed. Just with these facts considered, Asian carp could certainly wreak havoc on the Great Lakes water system if they gain a toehold.”

        He said Asian carp are “ravenous feeders,” that require the consumption of large amounts of plankton, making Lake Erie the ideal habitat for them.

        “Based on their biological requirements to thrive in a water system, Ohio has several rivers that could soon become perfect habitats for these fish,” he said, including the Maumee River.

        Of the many proposed measures for preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, hydrologic separation is the only permanent and effective way to block the movement of the fish, according to Sheehy.

       

Lock closure

        Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine last month urged the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately implement “lock closure,” an interim solution until a complete hydrologic separation of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins could be accomplished to block the spread of Asian carp.

        “Any further delay unacceptably jeopardizes one of our country’s greatest natural resources,” said DeWine.

        The Corps’ tentatively selected plan involves the use of electrical fences, noise, and water jets to keep out invasive species, but DeWine says that plan doesn’t go far enough to stop the spread of Asian carp. (In June, there were reports of a silver carp found nine miles from Lake Michigan, beyond electric barriers designed to block the fish). 

        DeWine has been a long-time advocate for protecting the Great Lakes. As a U.S. Senator, he introduced the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act and the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act to address invasive species attacking Lake Erie and other Great Lakes.

 

 

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