Does The White House Plan Add Up to Zero Tolerance for Asian Carp?

The White House has promised a zero tolerance policy toward new invasive species and they believe that the draft Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework released today at the summit meeting with Great Lakes Governors is proof positive that they are taking this issue seriously.

White House Counsel for Environmental Quality Chief, Nancy Sutley described the multitier plan of defense as evidence of an unparalleled federal effort. Charles Wooley, deputy regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced with conviction “we are doing everything humanly possible to keep these fish out of Lake Michigan.”

Except shutting the locks. Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm and Wisconsin’s Governor Jim Doyle left the meeting without saying they would stop trying to get the Supreme Court to agree to an injunction that would force the locks to close until a more permanent solution could be implemented.

“We did not discuss the legal action with the Governors,” Sutley admitted and added, ”that will just go on as it was.”

Governor Granholm acknowledged that a lot of work went into this proposal, but she was left “very disappointed.” “We have to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, but the proposal presented still leaves the lakes vulnerable to this threat.” She then called for the closing of the locks between the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal electrical barrier and Lake Michigan.

Right now the locks in question open and close whenever a boat or barge presents itself. The White House has offered a compromise – a modified lock closure – and what that boils down to is a schedule for opening and closing the locks. They would also provide some sort of treatment, possibly fish poison, each time they open the locks to prevent any Asian carp that may be there from moving through the waterway.

Andy Buchsbaum, co-chair of HOW, said the plan, ”leaves the details of when and how long the locks would be closed and how the poison would be used until later.”

In a press conference following the summit, the Feds said that they are not willing to close the locks permanently yet. Not until they have had time to “consider all factors” and can “make a decision whether it is in everyone’s interest to close the locks.”

One problem that CEQ’s Sutley pointed to is that there may be other pathways for the carp to get to the lakes such as the connection between the Mississippi watershed and the Great Lakes watershed. “Closing the locks are only two pathways,” she said.

Both Michigan officials and HOW have called for a permanent physical and biological separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins to stop the fish from using the rivers as entryways into the lakes. Sutley said that the Army Corps of Engineers is studying whether changing this connections would make sense. But right now, the framework does not require such a separation. Because of that Gov. Granholm said, “I believe the proposal’s primary objectives are not sustainable, and that this is a plan to limit damages – not solve the problem.”

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