From Chicago to Canada, 14 Great Lakes mayors call for help fighting Asian carp

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Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jump from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill., in 2012. AP Photo/John Flesher, File)

The Great Lakes are in great danger. As leaders of cities that depend on the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem for our drinking water, economy and way of life, we implore the federal government to take immediate action to save the Great Lakes from the imminent, existential threat of invasive species.

OPINION

This summer, an Asian carp was caught just nine miles from Lake Michigan. The discovery raised alarms not just here in the heartland, but in cities and towns from coast to coast. As we already have tragically witnessed in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, Asian carp decimate native fish and wildlife populations and wreak havoc on delicate ecological environments.

If the species is permitted to enter and spawn in the Great Lakes, the natural treasure Americans and Canadians have cherished and relied on for generations will be transformed beyond recognition. The environmental and economic impacts will be irreversible.

Fortunately, there is both bipartisan consensus that this threat must be addressed and a viable plan to prevent the looming ecological menace from moving forward. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has devised a plan to create a barrier at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam with the power to block Asian carp and other invasive species from migrating from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan.

We are grateful to the Corps for its work, support its innovative proposal and strongly encourage leaders in Washington to advance funding and construction of the barrier without delay.

The cost of inaction is unacceptable. The Great Lakes not only provide fresh drinking water for 35 million people, they support over $40 billion in annual economic activity in thriving industries from commercial and recreational fishing, to boating, hunting and wildlife observation.

We cannot gamble with our most precious natural resource and economic base. As mayors, we take responsibility for stewardship of the Great Lakes seriously. We must preserve and protect them, not surrender them to voracious invasive species.

The time for action is now. Asian carp have been slowly but steadily making their way up the Mississippi River towards the Great Lakes for decades. Previous strategies to prevent this slow motion train wreck have been ineffective and insufficient. The electric barriers currently in place to stop the spread of the species have been proven to be penetrable by small fish, eggs and barges that can unintentionally pull fish through the obstacles in their wakes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan for a barrier at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam is a critical step in the effort to stop the movement of Asian carp and other invasive species that imperil our waterways, our cities and our future.

If the federal government fails to act, our regional and national economy will suffer and our children and grandchildren will inherit an irreparably damaged environment. But if Washington takes swift and decisive action now, before it is too late, the future of the Great Lakes and the millions of Americans and Canadians who depend on them can still be secured.

US:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Chicago, IL)

Mayor Tom Barrett (Milwaukee, WI)

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson (Gary, IN)

Mayor Paul Dyster (Niagara Falls, NY)

Mayor Emily Larson (Duluth, MN)

Mayor Mike Vandersteen (Sheboygan, WI)

Mayor Jim Carruthers (Traverse City, MI)

Canada:

Mayor John Tory (Toronto)

Mayor Valerie Plante (Montréal)

Mayor Walter Sendzik (St. Catharines)

Mayor Sandra Cooper (Collingwood)

Mayor Randy Hope (Chatham-Kent)

Mayor Mitch Twolan (Township of Huron-Kinloss)

Mayor Scott Warnock (Township of Tay)

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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