Federal report on Asian carp contains good ideas, plans

Although it took longer than expected and the delay caused some to allege the Trump administration was playing politics with the health of the Great Lakes fishery, a federal report containing a series of recommendations on how best to battle the invasive Asian carp in a key access in Illinois to Lake Michigan was released earlier this week.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers document, all 488 pages, recommends that as much as $275 million be spent to upgrade the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet on the Des Plaines River, among other things. The site is part of an aquatic chain that connects Lake Michigan to the Asian carp-infested Mississippi River watershed, The Associated Press reported.

The Brandon Road complex is considered a bottleneck where defenses could be strengthened against fish swimming upstream toward openings to the lake at Chicago, AP stated.

The Army Corps proposes Uncle Sam would foot about 65 percent of the bill with the balance coming from unnamed “non-federal” sponsor. Illinois officials have speculated publicly that probably means them. The Great Lakes fishery is worth about $7 billion annually but experts fear the voracious carp would out compete indigenous species for habitat and drive out game fish.

The purpose of this writing is not to analyze the report’s recommendations. Certainly, some indigenous species such as turtles and frogs, may be adversely impacted. And it’s unclear just how effective any or all of the options would be, under the nearly unlimited circumstances that could crop up.

The Army Corps is accepting public comment on the basic plan until Sept 21. After that, look for additional state and federal review. A final document is expected in about a year.

This represents a very definite step in the right direction, we believe. It has people talking, and planning, and perhaps, most important, recognizing that the Asian carp represents a significant threat to the Great Lakes. Getting this right is important.

It’s going to cost more than many people expected and probably take much longer. But it needs to be done and this report seems like the best plan we’ve seen to do those things.

— The Mining Journal, (Marquette)