Joint press release from: Alliance for the Great Lakes; Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter; Natural Resources Defense Council; Prairie Rivers Network; Healing Our Waters Coalition
December 8, 2017 (Chicago) – Advocates today set the record straight about the clear and present danger Asian carp pose to the Great Lakes ecosystem and regional economy. Environmental and conservation groups, representing hundreds of thousands of residents of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River regions, delivered a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demanding additional protections against Asian carp. And, the groups delivered more than 10,000 letters from concerned residents around the country to the Corps, urging swift action to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
An extensive comment period ends on December 8th for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Brandon Road Lock & Dam Study, which examined additional Asian carp protection measures to be installed at the facility. The Brandon Road Lock & Dam, located on the Des Plaines River near Joliet, IL, is a logical choke point in the waterways connecting the Mississippi River Basin to the Great Lakes and a critical location for implementing additional Asian carp control measures to slow the movement of the invasive fish into the lakes.
The discovery this summer of a live, adult Asian carp within nine miles of Lake Michigan in the Chicago waterways should have been a wake-up call for the region. This silver carp was found past the electric barriers that are the last line of defense against Asian carp’s advance toward the Lakes. Unfortunately, the news was met with tepid response by the federal government and a flat-out misinformation campaign by shipping industry opponents and State of Illinois officials. At a hearing hosted by the Corps in New Orleans, LA earlier this week, shipping industry representatives opposed additional efforts to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp.
To set the record straight, Great Lakes advocates rebutted four common industry myths in a joint comment letter delivered to the U.S. Army Corps today.
Myth – The construction and ongoing operation of additional Asian carp control measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam will dramatically slow down shipping on the Illinois River and harm industry in the Midwest.
Fact – Changes to the Brandon Road lock will not cut long-term barge traffic in half, as industry representatives claim. Slow downs are common during construction and general maintenance, but the Corps’ analysis clearly shows that users would be able to adjust during construction and then resume their normal route, rather than modifying routes long-term.
Myth – The Asian carp population hasn’t moved in 26 years so there’s no need to worry about them reaching Lake Michigan.
Fact – The invasive carp detection front has continued to advance since 2009. Multiple sampling events in 2015 found invasive carp eggs, larval fish, and juveniles much farther upstream than ever observed before. These data indicate the invasive carp population on the Illinois River system is active and advancing.
Myth – The Asian carp found nine miles from Lake Michigan on June 23, 2017 isn’t really a big deal and could have come from anywhere.
Fact – The chemistry of the fish’s earstones (otoliths) are consistent with prior residency in the Illinois and Des Plaines Rivers below the electric barrier. This finding is alarming and further stresses the urgent need for preventative action.
Myth – Asian carp really aren’t that big of a threat to the Great Lakes, particularly when compared to the impact it could have on jobs.
Fact – Asian carp would cause irreparable harm to the Great Lakes. Introduction of Asian carp would jeopardize the region’s $7 billion/year fishing industry, $16 billion/year recreational boating industry, and hunting, fishing and wildlife observation opportunities that generate approximately $18 billion/year.
The implementation of control measures at Brandon Road Lock and Dam will represent another step in the fight against the upstream movement of Asian carp. However, the need remains for a two-way solution that also addresses invasive species moving from the Great Lakes into the Mississippi River basin.
“Further delay on implementing additional Asian carp prevention measures at Brandon Road is unacceptable. The Corps and other government agencies must listen to more than just the wishes of the shipping industry. Instead, the Corps must follow the recommendations of researchers as well as listen to the residents of the Great Lakes region who care deeply about keeping Asian carp out of the lakes,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes Vice President for Policy Molly Flanagan.
“We hope the Army Corps will act on the science, facts, and concerns of people around the Great Lakes and urgently get to work on the Brandon Road project and long-term solutions to keep Asian Carp and other invaders out of Lake Michigan,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “Our Great Lakes and our rivers are not the private property of barge companies, they are priceless public resources facing serious threats that demand urgent responses.”
“Over the past several years, federal investments to restore the Great Lakes have been producing results in communities across the region. But those gains can be undermined if Asian carp invade the Lakes,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “The millions of people in the eight-state region who depend on the lakes for their drinking water, jobs, and way of life, are counting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bolster defenses against Asian carp now to maintain progress in restoring the lakes, as we work towards a permanent, long-term solution. To do that, the Army Corps needs to complete the Brandon Road study as soon as possible.”
“The health of our rivers, as well as the Great Lakes and the thousands of jobs they support, should not be held hostage to a navigation industry that does not pay its own way, an industry that can’t stay afloat without massive public subsidies,” said Robert Hirschfeld of Prairie Rivers Network. “Rather, we should be implementing the strongest two-way solutions to protect these public waters for the benefit of the public that pays for them.”
“The public remains concerned about the damage Asian carp can do. Other states remain concerned. But Illinois and the barge industry continue to drag their feet. Meanwhile, the fish keep swimming. This project needs to move forward before we start seeing invasive fish flying out of the Lake around Oak Street Beach,” said Meleah Geertsma a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
For more information, contact: Jennifer Caddick, firstname.lastname@example.org, (312) 445-9760.