The Worst Case Scenario

Asian Carp

Asian Carp

Surely, you’ve seen the Worst Case Scenario books that explain how to get out of tragic situations like a superhero, well; the manuals are mum about how to keep giant Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. On Friday, government agencies announced that they collected 32 DNA samples on two different dates in September and October proving that the only thing between the fish and the lakes is a series of swinging doors – the locks. This is the worst case scenario.

“If we don’t close the locks, we are waving the white flag and allowing one of the greatest ecological tragedies to occur,” Jennifer Nalbone, campaign director of Invasive Species and Navigation for Great Lakes United told the Wall Street Journal. But John W. Peabody, Commanding General of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said before a decision can be made to shut the locks the details must be worked out with industrial users of the passageway. Really, the “industrial users” get such a large say when we are talking about the potential devastation of a $7 billion sport fishing industry from which this region benefits? Does anyone remember the sea lamprey and Lake Erie?

Some are telling us not to panic, that it is still not too late because they doubt the fish have reached the lake.

“As a biologist and somebody who has spent decades now studying many different kinds of invasive species, we should not assume all is lost because there may be some silver and bighead (carp) above the barrier,” Notre Dame’s David Lodge told Dan Egan. “There are lots of cases, well documented from many parts of the world, where a small number of organisms may invade new areas, but they may die out before they establish a sustainable reproducing population. So it’s very important to keep the numbers of individual organisms as low as possible.”

So what is the plan? The Army Corps is going to go ahead with its poisoning of the Chicago Canal just below the barrier so that they can then shut down the barrier for maintenance. They say they are thinking about poisoning above the barrier too. Officials also told reporters that they will think about changing the way they run the locks near the shoreline of Lake Michigan. And if all else fails they can always sterilize the Carp just as they did the lamprey.

Until then, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is planning to send electric volts into the water where the DNA was found and stun the fish so that they can net them. Unbelievable, how did we get here?

Could it be that the many federal and state agencies that are supposed to work in concert to protect the Great Lakes have failed because they are too numerous and too competitive? That is what some are saying. Dave Dempsey is arguing we should use the failure to keep the carp at bay as a catalyst for a new way of doing the business of restoration by streamlining the Great Lakes bureaucracies via a Presidential Executive Order that makes it clear who is in charge in such a Great Lake emergency and for long-range restoration efforts.

Not bad – anyone else have any ideas to ensure this sort of debacle doesn’t ever happen again?

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4 Responses to The Worst Case Scenario

  1. Julie Peck says:

    This won’t happen again, as the Great Lakes will never be the same again if the carp gets in. I called the Corps of Engineers in DC at 202-761-0011, chose “9” from the menu and got their PR department – voice mail, of course. I left the message that if the Corps thinks Katrina was a PR disaster, how will it look when they allow 20% of the planet’s surface freshwater to become 5 carp ponds? There are many of us who love the great lakes who will make sure the Corps gets the visibility they deserve for either allowing this to happen or preventing this ecological disaster. I agree with your concern that almost every complex issue has so many interests and agencies involved that no one can act urgently, if at all. My message also said we will make sure we stand behind anyone brave enough to make this decision; we need to make sure that happens, too, whether it goes against us or for us.

  2. Tom North says:

    I am a member of one of your groups, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. I would like to propose the following immediate game plan. The organization that runs the O’Brien Lock is listed in the Wikepedia article found, if one Googles “Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.” That organization, which has twice a month meetings in Chicago, should be lobbied as follows: Once the lock is closed for the poisoning, beginning Dec. 2 (and definitely there should also be more testing above the lock), KEEP the lock closed until follow up testing is done. It would be easier to convince them to keep a closed lock closed, than to get them to close it again after it is re-opened. Only after there is NO DNA or other evidence of Asian Carp beyond the electrical barrier, and it is back in operation, can re-opening of the lock be considered. There can be NO possibility of allowing the Carp to get beyond the O’Brien Lock, as the last barrier to possibly stop them from the Great Lakes. If it is verified that there are no carp above the electric barriers at some point in time, the lock can be re-opened, but a long range plan needs to be developed , beyond finishing construction of the second electric barrier. That should include as a minimum, lobbying Congress to immediately pass laws making the transport or enabling of spread of Asian Carp to be a severe federal felony , the penalty for which includes full restitution for any and all direct and indirect damages that may result. There also needs to be legislation making the shipping industry financially liable for invasive species getting into the Great Lakes. Their waterways association statement that Asian Carp efforts should be about controlling their population in the Great Lakes is incredibly stupid, as such an effort would be impossible physically and financially. There needs to be a financial penalty to the shipping industry that makes it most expensive for SHIPPERS directly, or they just only care about their bottom line.

  3. Tiffany Danitz Pache says:

    No, the lakes will never be the same if the carp get in. Thanks to Julie and Tom for your thoughtful responses to this 911 situation.

  4. Tiffany Danitz Pache says:

    Julie was right on target calling the corps. We are asking all to call Major General Peabody, Commander of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division of the Army Corps – as well as calling the Army Corps in Washington to ask them to:
    Immediately close all controlling locks in Chicago waterways that lead to Lake Michigan.
    Take any and all monitoring and control efforts to keep the Asian carp at bay and the Great Lakes safe.

    To reach Major General Peabody, call the Great Lakes Division Headquarters at 513-684-3010

    You may reach the Army Corps in Washington, DC at 202-761-0011

    Thanks, Julie and anyone else who calls in. If you do – come back here and let us know what they said. Thanks!