On Tuesday, The Hill's Congress Blog ran a post entitled "Asian carp solution: Use science, not scare tactics," by Lisa Frede, a lobbyist for the chemical industry and an adviser to an interest group opposed to our efforts to stop the Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. Her post mirrored the comments made by her boss at the Chemical Industry Council, Mark Biel, whose June 3 post on Congress Blog ("Carp catastrophists come up empty handed") attacked the science and the federal response to the Asian carp threat.
Mr. Biel said that "no evidence of Asian carp breaching existing barriers has been found." He went on to argue that the whole effort was a waste of time and money because of all the fish caught as part of the prevention efforts, "Asian carp just did not happen to be among them -- not even one."
Well, unfortunately, a few weeks later, Asian carp were found past the barriers just six miles from Lake Michigan. A bighead carp was caught in Lake Calumet, and Asian carp were found spawning in the Wabash River in Illinois, not far from a connection to the Maumee River, which feeds into Lake Erie.
I agree that we should listen to the science, which is why I convened a hearing of the Water and Power Subcommittee yesterday to get the facts about the Asian carp control effort. We received testimony from scientists who are on the ground fighting these fish every day, as well as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Great Lakes Commission and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. They all agree that Asian carp pose a real and immediate threat to our Great Lakes.
Asian carp have a voracious appetite for plankton and algae, the foundation of the food chain, meaning that they can easily prevent other fish from obtaining food. They grow to a huge size, from 40 pounds up to 110 pounds. The vibrations from boat engines send these fish into a frenzy, causing them to leap up to 10 feet out of the air, posing a very real safety threat to boaters.
I understand the chemical industry's concern about the disruption of commerce if the Chicago locks are closed. But I am more concerned about the disruption of commerce if Asian carp are able to invade the Great Lakes. They pose a major threat to Michigan's $7 billion fishing industry and our $16 billion recreational boating industry. And Michigan isn't alone -- all of the Great Lakes States would suffer, which is why both the senators from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania joined a letter urging the administration to move quickly on plans to permanently separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.
Scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service call Asian carp the "greatest immediate threat to the Great Lakes." We have an obligation to listen to the facts and act with urgency to do everything in our power to stop this grave threat to our Great Lakes ecosystem.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Water and Power.