Conservation organizations are urging the federal government to take emergency action to keep menacing Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and wreaking havoc on the world’s largest surface fresh-water resource.
The invasive carp are bearing down on an electrical barrier operating in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) in Illinois. That barrier is designed to keep the carp from sneaking into Lake Michigan, but it doesn’t provide adequate protection.
The carp have been discovered in waterways less than 100 feet from the shipping canal, and could bypass the barrier completely if a heavy rain floods the Des Plaines River and causes it to spill into the canal.
Environmental and conservation groups are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take emergency action to stop the threat now and to look at the separation of the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes as a permanent solution.
“There is an urgent threat of Asian carp entering Lake Michigan if the nearby waterways flood into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal,” says Joel Brammeier, acting president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes . “We are just one heavy rain away from this emergency becoming an epidemic.”
Asian carp could disrupt the Great Lakes food chain by hogging the plankton that other fish need to survive. One species, the silver carp, poses safety threats because it leaps out of the water when agitated by boat motors.
In addition to the Des Plaines River, which in some places is only yards away from the CSSC, the carp could also enter another adjacent canal, the Illinois & Michigan (I&M), which is connected to the CSSC by small culverts that the carp can swim through during heavy rains
The groups are calling on the U.S. government to:
§ Build an emergency barrier (like sandbags) between the Des Plaines and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to ensure the Des Plaines River and live carp cannot flood into the CSSC past the electrical barrier.
§ Install a barrier (such as a bubble/acoustic barrier) to stop the carp from migrating upstream into the Des Plaines River .
§ Fill in critical sections of the I&M Canal so that carp cannot swim into the CSSC during floods.
“Failure to confront the threat of the Asian carp is in invitation for disaster and threatens to undermine the progress the nation is making to restore the Great Lakes and revive the economy through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” says Jeff Skelding, Campaign Director for the Healing Our Waters Coalition. “Congressional action is needed now to protect our Great Lakes , public health, economy and way of life.”
For a map illustrating the location of the barriers and how flooding could allow the fish to bypass them, visit www.glu.org.
Here’s how you can help:
Please make the following calls:
Contact your member of Congress and two Senators. Ask them to tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take the immediate emergency actions above to stop Asian carp from getting into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal during a flood. Call 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative’s and Senators’ offices.
Contact Ms. Jo Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works).
Tell her that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must take immediate emergency action to ensure Asian carp cannot get into the Great Lakes during a flood. Assistant Secretary Darcy can be reached at (703) 697-8986 or by writing 108 Army Pentagon, Room 3E446, Washington, DC 20310-0108.