The 20lb Carp in the Room

The discovery of a very large Big Head Asian carp above the Chicago electronic barrier has had a welcome and somewhat humbling effect on the three season-long debate we have been having regarding a permanent hydrological separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds – we are no longer asking whether we should do it, but how to do it.

From Capitol Hill to the streets of Chicago, politicians, federal and state officials and residents are talking about how to separate the basins with the least negative effect on the economy, in a way that will reduce flooding and keep the Michigan River poo free. Washington is trying to light a fire under the US Army Corps of Engineers who have claimed it will take them until 2012 to study this permanent solution.

“We have to do everything in our power to stop this invasive species from entering Lake Michigan,” Illinois Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin told the Journal Sentinel. “We have to go at this as if we were at war. The viability of the Great Lakes is at stake.” He is right, our ecology and economy are in grave jeopardy but if we get behind the Asian Carp war effort the way we did the Second World War, well, then we can still beat them.

Recently, Sens. Durbin and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced a bill that would require the US Army Corps of Engineers to make the study a high priority. At the same time, members of the Great Lakes Congressional Delegation are circulating a letter to be sent to President Obama demanding he exert Executive influence to accelerate the study as well a short term efforts to halt the advance of the invasive fish.

“We cannot afford to further delay our efforts to prevent the Asian carp from devastating an important sector of Wisconsin’s economy, as well as our treasured Great Lakes,” stated Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) said.

The entire region’s fishing industry is at stake, as well as recreational boating and other tourist dollars and that is putting a fine point on the need for a dramatic and permanent solution that will keep the fish out for good.

“This latest finding (in Lake Calumet) has put the exclamation point on it,” Joel Brammeier of the Alliance for the Great Lakes told the Chicago Tribune. “Every day I see this idea being taken more seriously.”

We can build an integrated system that will actually create more rail and trucking jobs while keeping many of the shipping routes. Another option, in Europe they have lifts that pick the cargo ships and transfer them across land to another channel.

The point is that this fish has finally got the people in power talking about how to do it instead of whether we need to do anything at all and that is good news for the Great Lakes.

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