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article imageOp-Ed: Are The Great Lakes fisheries doomed?

By Ken Wightman     Dec 5, 2009 in Environment
An Asian carp has been found in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) just above the Lockport Lock and Dam. This is the first fish specimen to confirm what eDNA testing earlier this year suggested. Asian carp are in the CSSC.
It’s been called a Rube Goldberg invention but Rube’s contraptions worked and were visually witty and funny. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) electrified fish barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) is showing signs of becoming a multi-million dollar fiasco, and this is not funny.
The barrier is being shut-down for a number of days in early December for scheduled maintenance and 2300 gallons of the fish-killing toxin rotenone was dumped in a 6-mile stretch of the CSSC to provide a temporary barrier. The toxicant killed any Asian carp present plus all other fish in the treated water. One Asian carp was discovered among the thousands of fish killed.
eDNA samples from above the electrified fish barrier have tested positive for the presence of Asian ...
eDNA samples from above the electrified fish barrier have tested positive for the presence of Asian carp eDNA. Red ovals on map indicate areas where positive samples were taken.
USACE - Chicago District
In mid-November the University of Notre Dame informed the USACE that eDNA of Asian carp had been found in water samples taken above the barrier and just a mile south of the O’Brien lock – eight miles from Lake Michigan. Now, we have an actual fish found just above the Lockport Lock and Dam.
This is a story of too little too late. The barrier, created to halt the migration of Asian carp from the Mississippi into the Great Lakes via the CSSC – the only link between the two watersheds – is still not fully operational. The optimum working voltage has yet to be determined and a third section of the installation is not scheduled for completed until 2010. Even fully functional, environmentalists are critical of the barrier.
The time for discussion is past; it is now time for action. With Asian carp poised to enter the Great Lakes, the O'Brien, Chicago River and Wilmette locks must be closed immediately. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and five environmental groups seem to agree as they are threatening to sue the USACE in an attempt to force the immediate, temporary closure of the locks.
Many believe that if these locks are not closed, the Asian carp, huge, prolific, ravenous foreign invaders, will enter the Great Lakes and destroy the remaining natural ecology of the largest body of freshwater in the world.
They may even drive some native fish species into extinction, just as the sea lamprey drove the unique Lake Erie and Lake Ontario blue pike into oblivion more than half a century ago. Reportedly Asian carp are already rated as the second biggest contributors to species extinctions in the world.
If the measures taken so far by USACE appear to have been more protective of shipping interests than the Great Lakes, the response of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to the news of eDNA above the barrier is no more reassuring.
IDNR assistant director John Rogner said, “Keeping Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan remains the focus and goal of the IDNR . . .” He continued with remarks about working with partners, addressing the new issue and moving forward.
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Douglas Scott reportedly said the state and the USACE are trying to take the necessary steps to keep the carp out of Lake Michigan.
With the Asian Carp Rapid Response Workgroup leaping into action, should we be worried? I think so.
These carp entered the Mississippi River in the 1990s after severe flooding made their escape from southern fish ponds possible. They may even now be knocking at the unlocked, lock doors leading to The Great Lakes. The only thing rapid about the response to the threat is the name of the workgroup.
This is just one person’s opinion, but I fear The Great Lakes are doomed. The gates may be closed after the carp have already left.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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