Feds' plan no match for carp - EDITORIAL
Written by Detroit Free Press   
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 09:39

Inadequate barely covers the proposed federal response to the menace of Asian carp facing the Great Lakes. For once, the government has a chance to head off disaster before it happens and this is the best we can do?

Yes, restricted lock openings, as proposed, might limit fish passage -- if they're carefully timed to match doses of poison and other carp-trapping measures. And if there are no other exceptions. And if there are no major flood events. And if there are no slip-ups. And if, if, if ... you get the idea.

The Great Lakes and all the people who enjoy them need a far better guarantee. And unless Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox can change the U.S. Supreme Court's mind and get the justices to take up his plea to close the Chicago-area locks, the next best alternative is poison. Lots of it. And soon.

A thorough poisoning has two benefits: making the carp visible for the purposes of assessing the situation and presumably clearing them out if they're there. Coming up empty would be delightful, too. Certainly it would help bolster the lock users' case that the two existing electric barriers, which aren't looking so good now that carp DNA has been found in Lake Michigan, provide decent protection.

Otherwise, it's almost laughable that the barge industry in a small area of Illinois has been able to suggest that its business even begins to compete with the economic interests at stake if the carp get established in the Great Lakes. Barges presumably have some pluses over trucks, but the positives could hardly outweigh the potential loss of a fishery valued in the billions of dollars, encompassing everything from commercial whitefish and perch to the anglers' favorites, salmon and walleye. And don't forget the spending that would be forgone by boaters if jumping Asian carp take over in popular recreational waters such as Lake St. Clair, endangering people in open boats.

The federal plan to hold the carp back has another insulting aspect: Its estimated $78-million cost apparently will be billed back to Great Lakes funding that by all rights should go to new initiatives to protect the waters.

People in the Great Lakes states and provinces have invested billions -- not to mention their hearts and identities -- in clean water, harbor and beach access, and support for the fish and fowl that make the region worthy of the word "great." It is a standard that puts this proposed federal response to shame.

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