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Congress Puts Army Corps' Carp Fight On The Clock

By JoshMogerman in News on Jun 30, 2012 8:00PM

Asian carp, thankfully under glass [jmogs]

A stealth infiltration. The foreign creature sneaks its way into a new environment and changes everything around it. That could be a description of an invasive species, like Asian carp. But, in fact, we are talking about what may be the most impactful measure taken so far in the fight to stop Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes via the Chicago River and nearby waterways.

We’ve covered the ugly fight over a national transportation bill in DC in the past. And we look at the carp crisis every chance we get. Yesterday, the two issues came together in surprising fashion. When the giant bill which doles out cash to fund roads, bridges, mass transit and bike paths around the nation finally passed out of Congress, it included new language slipped in at the 11th hour which will force the agencies developing a solution to the invasive species onslaught in our backyard to turn on the afterburners. The language, which closely resembles a bill introduced by a bipartisan group of Great Lakes members of Congress, gives the Army Corps of Engineers 18 months to finalize their study and release a plan to rebuff the invasive fish (they had planned to continue until the end of 2015). The anti-carp language had been quietly tacked on by Representative Dave Camp from Michigan, who told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

"We are finally moving toward an actionable plan to permanently prevent Asian carp from destroying the Great Lakes and the $7 billion fishing industry and 800,000 jobs they support. Before, we've had temporary fixes; this legislation puts us on the path towards a lasting solution."
That last part of Camp's quote is, of course, a dig on the Corps’ current last line of defense—the electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near Romeoville, which went down during a power outage earlier this year. And while the barrier seems to be stopping the majority of Asian carp swimming towards Lake Michigan, troubling evidence that it might not be stopping all of them continued to come in this week as environmental DNA (eDNA) tests again spotted signs of Asian carp in the Chicago Waterways. The new tests were the second batch this year to find silver carp DNA near Lake Calumet, where a live fish was found two years ago. More troublingly, tests found Asian carp DNA near MWRD’s Wilmette pumping station and sluice gate in the Chicago River’s north channel. The spot is both close to the Lake and far from waters plied by barges, which had been posed as a possible explanation for carp DNA hits earlier this year.

We don’t exactly think the current fad in DC of slipping unrelated bills into must-pass legislation is an example of good governance—and it seems particularly ironic when applied to the fight against an invasive species—but time does seem to be running out before a cruise on the Chicago River looks like this:

And a Chicago daughter's most horrific memories of her dad look like this: