Asian carp remain one of the greatest threats to the Great Lakes, and lawmakers recently introduced bills in both the US Senate and House to further safeguard the region from the invasive fish. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives Dave Camp (R-MI) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the Guarding Our Great Lakes Act last week, which will direct the efforts of federal agencies towards vulnerable waterways in Illinois.

“The Great Lakes are part of our way of life and fuel our economy,” said Senator Stabenow in a joint press release. “We must stop them from being destroyed by Asian carp and other invasive species. This is an emergency, and the time has come for decisive action before it’s too late. This bill will call on the Army Corps [of Engineers] to begin work on projects that will help prevent the spread of Asian carp and require the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force to move us closer toward a long-term, permanent solution that will keep Asian carp out of our Lakes for good.”

The bills call for the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, which is made up of 11 federal agencies, to work with state and local departments to find a permanent solution in keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. The bill also focuses specifically on the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Illinois. The dam is only five miles downstream from the electric barriers keeping carp out of the canal and is one of the most vulnerable spots in the region. However, the Associated Press reported that experts also view it as a vital choke point to prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes. The bill will reinforce the site, which according to the US Army Corps of Engineers may include additional electric barriers or a new type of lock to treat water for carp eggs.

“After years of study, we must begin making tangible progress to safeguard the Great Lakes ecosystem and the $7 billion economy it supports – and that is exactly what this bill would do,” said Representative Camp. “The Guarding Our Great Lakes Act would take the next necessary actions to prevent the spread of Asian carp. Focusing control efforts at Brandon Road Lock and Dam and beginning to improve the Chicago Area Waterway System are vital steps that need to be taken as we continue working to find a permanent solution.”

Asian carp are an aggressive, adaptable, and fast-growing group of invasive species that can outcompete native fish and push them out of the ecosystem. Since the first Asian carp escaped aquaculture farms in the early 1970s, the fish has spread widely across the Mississippi River and now are close to entering the Great Lakes. Earlier this year, the US Army Corps of Engineers proposed a number of methods to prevent the fish from entering the lake system, with some options costing as much as $18 billion over a span of 25 years.

“The federal government’s response to invasive species over the years has largely been reactive, not proactive, and we have paid a dear price,” said Representative Slaughter. “We have to take this problem head on, which is why I’m proud to introduce with my colleagues the Guarding Our Great Lakes Act—to stop Asian Carp before they destroy the native ecosystems of our beloved Great Lakes.”

Image courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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