For months, even years, the Asian carp alarmists have fixated on Chicago's waterways as the lone path for the fish to enter the Great Lakes. But recent discoveries of Asian carp in Wisconsin and Iowa underscore what many in Illinois and Indiana have long understood. This is not just a Chicago problem and, furthermore, we cannot simply focus on aquatic pathways.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has repeatedly warned authorities that over 20 additional points of introduction exist across the region. And recently, Canadian officials stated that trucking live Asian carp across the border to sell for food fish purposes tops their lists of fears for introduction. If these discussions do nothing else, they indicate the need for increased regional, multi-tiered control measures and an end to this obsession with permanent separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin in Chicago.
To recap briefly for readers, in recent weeks, fishermen in Wisconsin and Iowa have caught Asian carp in the Lower Wisconsin River and in East Lake Okoboji, respectively. These new discoveries solidify the fact that Asian carp are actively migrating north via multiple streams and tributaries. In doing so, they are encroaching fast on various fronts to the Great Lakes.
Illinois and Indiana have taken proactive approaches and made substantial steps towards Asian carp control. Up and down Illinois waterways, federal officials on the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee have worked with the Army Corps to develop comprehensive, preventative measures that will keep the Asian carp from developing sustainable populations in the Great Lakes.
Here are a just a handful of the achievements:
- A third electric fish barrier was installed on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in April, and extensive searches in August have demonstrated that these barriers are working effectively to repel these fish.
- Physical barriers have been constructed along the Des Plaines River and the Illinois and Michigan Canal to prevent Asian carp from crossing into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal during flooding.
- Illinois officials employed more than a dozen project plans for monitoring, removal, barrier effectiveness and alternative pathway surveillance.
- Illinois implemented a commercial fishing initiative to enhance the process of harvesting Asian carp and exporting them to Asia.
- Indiana officials have taken steps to ensure flooding in Eagle Marsh does not result in further advancement of Asian carp.
- Indiana officials have installed a 1,177-foot chain link fence measuring eight feet high, with a 494-foot debris catch fence to prevent the transfer of Asian carp between the Wabash River and Maumee River.
While these two states continue to make substantial strides in the area of Asian carp prevention, it's high time the rest of our Great Lakes neighbors start to do the same. Despite what certain activists want to believe, altering the Chicago Area Waterway System would cost billions of dollars, exacerbate the area's wastewater and flood control system, and could still fail to keep Asian carp out of the lakes.
Given the complexity of the problem, closing the locks or separating the basins in Chicago is simply not a solution because of the size, scope and cost of such projects.
Now more than ever, it is abundantly clear that it's time for every state in the region to implement control measures. Prioritizing political carping over implementing tactics for prevention gets us nowhere. We cannot wait for the news that Asian carp have arrived by land or sea before we address these additional pathways.