Speaker: Voters should make Asian carp an election issue

Jobs and the economy may dominate discussions about the 2012 election, but one conservation leader said Great Lakes residents should make Asian carp part of the political dialogue.

Erin McDonough, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said voters should ask the presidential candidates and politicians running for Congress what they would do to keep Asian carp from storming the Great Lakes.

“The role of of the NGO (nongovernmental) community and public is to make Asian carp a voting issue,” McDonough said Wednesday during the 8th annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Cleveland. “People are wondering why we can’t come up with a common sense solution to this problem.”

The federal government imported Asian carp to commercial fish farms in Arkansas in the 1960s to control algae. Asian carp escaped from those farms in the 1980s, invaded the Mississippi River system and have been migrating north ever since.

Asian carp are bearing down on Lake Michigan and Lake Erie.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has called on the federal government to build physical barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System that would separate Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River basin.

Studies have shown that separating Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River basin would cost between $6 billion and $9 billion. McDonough said  the cost of keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes pales in comparison to the cost of damages the fish could inflict on Great Lakes ecosystem.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying the best way to prevent an Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes. The Army Corps present its study to Congress in 2014, but the Corps won’t recommend a solution. Congress will decide how best to address the problem, according to Corps officials.

Because the Army Corps takes its marching orders from the president and Congress, McDonough said voters who want the government to do more to prevent an Asian carp invasion should pressure the president, Congress and politicians seeking spots in Congress or the White House.

Here’s what you can do to help. Ask President Obama and Mitt Romney to sign the “Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Candidate Pledge.” The pledge asks the presidential candidates to support funding for Great Lakes restoration and back efforts to separate Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River basin Read the full pledge at: http://bit.ly/2012GLpledge

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