Sixteen years ago, that is when Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) first started asking his colleagues in Congress to deal with the Asian carp threat. “When I first learned about the Asian carp in the Mississippi, I thought good grief, we have to do something about this. They will get there (the Great Lakes)…but I could not get people excited about it and that is one of my chief frustrations of my life,” Ehlers said at a meeting this morning.
Had Congress listened to Ehlers back then we would not be faced with the difficult and expensive choices of closing locks and permanently separating the ecosystems. But that was then and this is now and for some reason Washington has a hard time dealing with long-term planning.
The Congressman implored coalition members and others to make dealing with the Asian carp a priority while talking to their Representatives today. “We absolutely have to do something immediately, it is truly an emergency.”
The best option now is to separate the Mississippi River and Great Lakes Basins that were artificially connected in an engineering feat a century ago. If we do it right, separating the basins has to potential to create a lot of jobs in engineering, transportation and support industries while protecting a more limited barge industry.
“We need to separate the watersheds and we need to ask the Army Corps of Engineers to tell us how to do that. I think that is the only way to stop the spread of the Asian carp,” announced Rep. Mark Shauer (D-Mich.).
Some members from Illinois and Indiana are opposed to a short term closing of the locks or the long-term separation of the basins because it would initially harm the local economy. Unfortunately, the carp also have the potential to destroy the local economy once they establish themselves.
“Their economic loss is peanuts compared to the economic loss if the carp get into the Great Lakes,” Ehlers said and added that Lake Michigan stands to lose $7 billion and the entire region at least $18 billion in sport, recreation and fishery industries. “That’s a lot of money. Dirkson said one time, a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you are talking about real money.”
Lake Erie is expected to be a perfect home for the Asian carp and every mile of Ohio’s northern border is the lake. Marcy Kapture (D-OH) represents a lake district and she told Great Lakes citizen activists, “I can’t encourage you enough to be successful on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Asian carp.”
Lake Erie also borders a small corner of Pennsylvania where Rep. Nancy Dahlkemper (D) lives. She is a new lawmaker but promised the carp and other Great Lakes issues are high on her radar.
Members have little to fear as the Asian carp are among our top priorities during this visit to the Hill. Ehlers will be happy to know that HOW members will do as he asked and “Keep on carping about the carp.”