Something’s Fishy in Illinois
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Something’s Fishy in Illinois

Silver carp jumping in the Fox River, a tributary of the Illinois River. Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS.

Trump and Congressional Republicans Sit on a Plan to Stop Invasive Asian Carp From Reaching the Great Lakes

Voracious Asian carp, which can grow up to 100 pounds, are eating their way up the Illinois River toward Lake Michigan, but the Trump administration and extremist Republicans have suppressed a report about how to try to keep the invasive fish out of the Great Lakes.

Conservationists and wildlife authorities were alarmed last month when an 8-pound, 28-inch adult silver carp apparently somehow got past electric barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and was caught by a commercial fisherman just nine miles from Lake Michigan. No other fish have been found past the electric barrier.

“Asian carp are like cockroaches,” said Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “When you see one, you know it’s accompanied by many more you don’t see.”

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers was supposed to release the draft of a report Feb. 28 that was expected to focus on what could be done to stop the fish near Joliet, Ill.

ACTION BOX / What You Can Do About It

Write Doug Lamont, the acting assistant Army secretary for civil works at 108 Army Pentagon, Washington, DC 20310-0108

Contact your representative or senators.

The National Resources Defense Council can be reached at 212-727-2700 or nrdcinfo@nrdc.org.

Sixteen Republican U.S. House members, mostly from Illinois and Indiana,  asked Trump to sit on the report until after the Senate confirms a new Army assistant secretary to oversee the Corps of Engineers. No one has been nominated for that position.

The representatives wrote that commercial boaters and their employees are concerned that changes to the lock “would disrupt commercial activity.”

The political action committee of American Waterways Operators, the trade association for the barge industry, gave a total of $16,500 in campaign contributions in 2016 to nine of the 16 House members who asked Trump to suppress the report.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced a bill, S. 1398, the Stop Asian Carp Now Act, to try to force the Trump administration to release the report. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) has introduced the same bill in the House.

“It’s incredibly irresponsible for the Trump administration to continue to block the Army Corps from releasing a crucial plan to address the threat of Asian carp to our Great Lakes,” Stabenow said.

Trump’s budget also would slash funding to keep Asian carp and other invasive species from the Great Lakes.

More than a century ago, Chicago rerouted its sewage through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal so the city wouldn’t dump it into Lake Michigan.

The canal has proved to be a superhighway for invasive species such as the zebra mussel. A recent study found that bighead and silver carp could thrive in parts of Lake Michigan and hurt Great Lakes fishing.

Asian carp were brought to the United States in the 1960s and 1970s to control algae in Southern fish farms. Bighead and silver carp are two of the four types of Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes, largely because they eat massive amounts of plankton that walleye, perch, whitefish and other native species depend on during crucial stages of development. According to the Chicago Tribune, silver carp have become YouTube sensations because boat motors cause them to leap high out the water, in some cases injuring passing boaters.

Since 2010, more than 5.5 million pounds of Asian carp have been pulled out the Illinois River upstream of Starved Rock State Park.

Featured Photo: Illinois Natural History Survey biologist Rebecca Anderson (left) and contracted commercial fisherman Ronnie Brown (right) pictured with the silver carp captured on the morning of June 22 in the Illinois Waterway approximately two miles downstream of T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam. Image by Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

 

July 13, 2017