Tucked inside the massive $21 billion Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) reauthorization is $9 million for the Corps of Engineers to construct and maintain a permanent barrier that will keep non-native Asian carp from wreaking havoc on Lake Michigan’s ecosystem.
It is too bad that the only way to stop the ferocious fish has involved nose pinching. While WRDA has attracted some unwanted attention as a piggy bank for the Army Corps of Engineers, it holds within it one of the most significant programs for the survival and vitality of the Great Lakes. The Asian Carp Barrier – that will physically stop the migrating foreign fish from entering Lake Michigan via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal – is essential to the restoration of the Great Lakes. The rapidly reproducing fish have been traveling up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers gobbling up algae and starving out native fish and are within 50 miles of the Lake . It isn’t just environmentalists who should be concerned – these invaders also threaten sport and commercial fisheries – a $5-billion-a-year industry on the Great Lakes.
But numerous environmentally unsound programs are also in the bill, such as money to update studies on the viability of a dam on Alaska’s Susitna River that would be harmful to fish and wildlife habitat, and another provision that could result in never-ending dredging by the Corps of Engineers in the Great Lakes if lake levels continue to drop due to climate change and other factors. Because of this, it is difficult to laud such a bill, but we do want the barrier.
Bush has threatened to veto the authorization because of the pricey contents, but it should still be able to garner enough votes for an override. The thing is, the water bill only approves the projects – and then a spending bill will have to pass the appropriations committee to pay for the work. Once the bill passes these hurdles, the carp barrier will go to battle against numerous odious programs to try and pry the necessary $9 million from the appropriations committee. The good news is that Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wisc.) chairs the House Committee on Appropriations and will be in a position to help steer those dollars to the much needed barrier.