EDITORIAL: Bolster defenses to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan
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Government moves slower than a bulky barge on the lower Des Plaines River.
But in light of an important federal draft report released Monday on how to stop the invasion of Asian carp — a report that had to be pried from the hands of a reluctant Trump administration — the message is clear: We can’t afford any more delays. Grab a paddle and pull this plan along.
Invasive Asian carp have moved up the Mississippi River watershed to the point where they are threatening to colonize the Great Lakes and drive out native fish. In peril are the $7 billion-a-year recreational and commercial fishing industries and the multibillion-dollar tourism and boating industries. A study by the U.S. Geological Survey in April found that Lake Michigan has enough available food to sustain an Asian carp population.
To stop the carp, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday recommended a $275 million plan to block them at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the lower Des Plaines River near Joliet. The plan, which will be open for public comment through Sept. 21, calls for adding a new electric barrier to those that exist downriver, along with underwater noise and a “flushing” lock that uses water jets to repel small or stunned fish.
The Army Corps should, of course, pay close attention to suggestions from people who pore through the 488-page report and have ideas about how to make the barrier better and more cost-effective. But the Corps should ignore those who think we should do nothing, including Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who on Monday released a statement saying unnamed scientists think we already have done enough.
Yes, the existing barriers have worked so far. But if they are breached and the Asian carp establish a breeding population in Lake Michigan, there’s no getting them out.
The Corps intended to release the draft report in February, but 16 members of Congress concerned about the shipping industry, including Republicans Peter Roskam and Randy Hultgren of Illinois, got the Corps to pull the report back indefinitely. Only pressure from other members of Congress from Great Lakes states persuaded the Corps to finally make it public.
Once the report is in its final form, Congress should authorize construction and appropriate money to pay for the new barrier.
If the carp make it into Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes, entire industries will be destroyed.
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