Kaptur alarmed at lack of action over Asian carp
Written by Toledo Blade   
Thursday, 28 January 2010 09:00
Seventeen years of warning and this?

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) told The Blade yesterday she was absolutely stunned to learn that federal agencies not only are confused about how to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, but that they also appear to be waiting for someone else to take the lead.

The powerful fish with huge appetites have been the scourge of Great Lakes researchers since escaping from Arkansas fish farms when the Mississippi River flooded in 1993. Warnings were issued as the fish swam upstream. Experts have called Asian carp the poster child of harmful exotics, claiming they could wipe out the region's $7 billion sportfishing industry if they're ever allowed to colonize the lakes.

Now, with DNA evidence showing the carp have breached a $9 million electrical barrier built 20 miles southwest of Chicago, Miss Kaptur is one of several public officials at a loss for words over why the federal government isn't responding faster.

She has more at stake than many of her colleagues. Her 9th Congressional District spans from Lucas to Lorain counties, the greatest amount of Lake Erie shoreline among Ohio congressmen.

Lake Erie has more fish than the other four Great Lakes combined, with its western basin between Monroe and Sandusky being by far the most biologically productive area. That fact isn't lost on businesses eager to see the region's economy diversified with more recreation and tourism, officials have said.

Miss Kaptur said she was amazed at how much the issue remains mired in bureaucracy, given what's at stake. Her observation came from a meeting of the Great Lakes congressional delegation in Washington yesterday morning.

According to the Associated Press, several members of the delegation agreed to seek $20 million for studying more options, including a stepped-up use of poisons in the sewage and shipping canal between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi.

The Illinois delegation remained firmly opposed to a proposal by Michigan, Ohio, and other states to at least temporarily shut down a pair of shipping locks until a fix was found. Lawmakers from Illinois dispute the claims of potential destruction that others have made about Asian carp.

About all that was settled yesterday was an agreement to meet again in about two weeks, to give agencies a better idea of what they should seek budgetwise. No date was set.

U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who hosted the strategy session in Washington, said there's "clear disagreement about closing the locks and I knew we couldn't resolve that issue today."

The U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected a request by Michgan, Ohio, and others to have the Obama Administration step in.

Nancy Sutley, chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, last week announced a desire to schedule a summit on the matter in early February after being questioned about the administration's response by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Megan Brown, a spokesman for Ms. Granholm, said yesterday the date and location is expected to be worked out by tomorrow night.

Asian carp can reach 4 feet in length, 100 pounds in weight, and consume 40 percent of their body weight daily in plankton - the foundation of the Great Lakes food web.

In a joint letter to federal agency heads last week, Michigan congressmen said the "ecological and environmental damage would be devastating" to the lakes if Asian carp colonize them. The congressmen said they are "alarmed at the length of time it is taking to formulate a comprehensive response plan."
 
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