Representatives of Great Lakes environmental groups let President Barack Obama know how they feel about the encroachment of the Asian carp on the lakes.
More than 10,000 post cards were hand delivered in Washington, D.C., urging the president to demand federal regulators implement a solution, including the construction of a permanent barrier to separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River system – considered the main route the carp are following to reach the lakes.
“Our message from people around the region couldn’t be clearer: `We cannot wait any longer. We want a permanent solution that will protect our Great Lakes way of life,’ “ said Cheryl Mendoza, associate director of Freshwater Future.
The groups argue a permanent barrier between the two watersheds – which they say was “artificially” connected about 100 years ago to direct Chicago’s wastewater away from Lake Michigan – is the only guaranteed way to keep Asian carp and other destructive species from traveling between the two basins.
In June, a live Asian carp was caught by commercial fishermen in Lake Calumet near Chicago – past an electrical barrier designed to stop it. And earlier DNA sampling has found traces of the carp in the Chicago Area Waterway System, a tributary of the Great Lakes.
Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said the Army Corps of Engineers must be directed now to complete a study of how to install a permanent divide between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi basins at Chicago in the next 18 months.
“Asian carp are setting the timeline for us,” he said. “Asking for an extension means relying on temporary measures that will never solve what threatens to be a permanent problem.”
Temporary measures would jeopardize more than $10 billion in revenue to Ohio alone – taking into account sport fishing, wildlife watching, tourism, and travel, said Kristy Meyer, director of Agricultural & Clean Water Program for the Ohio Environmental Council.
“Ohio’s portion of Lake Erie produces more fish for consumption than any other place in the Great Lakes, and Ohioan’s know we have the most to lose,” she said. “Ohioans are urging swift but strategic hydro-separation. We know that any other measures will ultimately fail.”
The discovery of a spawning population of Asian carp in Indiana’s Wabash River earlier this summer shows the encroachment advancing on multiple fronts, the groups claim. The Wabash shares a floodplain with the Maumee River, a tributary of Lake Erie.
They praised the appointment by the Obama administration of John Goss, former director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Wildlife Federation – to lead the federal government’s response to the carp problem but said the hard work of solving it hasn’t begun.
“This crisis will only end when their watery path is cut off,” said Marc Smith, senior policy manager with the National Wildlife Federation. “We have the solutions to beat back the Asian carp and protect our lakes, our economy, and our way of life.”
Other groups participating in the postcard delivery include the Apostle Islands Sport Fisherman’s Association, Environment Illinois, Great Lakes United, Hoosier Coho Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northwest Indiana Steelheaders, Sierra Club, and Environment Illinois.
In June, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Attorney General Richard Cordray asked the Obama administration to convene a summit by July 19 to make plans for constructing a permanent barrier to block the infiltration of the Asian carp into the Great Lakes.
They also asked that construction of a physical barrier start within 30 days of the summit.
In a letter to the president they wrote: “…this is still a preventable multi-billion dollar ecological disaster, but the window is closing.”