Senators from the Great Lakes region pressed the Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday to help Congress choose the best strategy in fighting invasive Asian carp.
Before the end of the year, the Army Corps of Engineers will release a report on various strategies to permanently keep the invasive fish out of the Great Lakes. The region has been waiting some six years for the report, presenting the final results of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) mandated by the Waters Resources Development Act of 2007. The report was due to Congress in January 2014, but last year, President Obama signed the bipartisan "Stop Invasive Species Act," compelling the Corps to expedite the report of possible actions.
Yet the report will not include a formal recommendation for how to best prevent the spread of invasive species, according to the senators' letter, and the lawmakers want to know which approach from the report is going to be the most effective. In a letter to the Corps, the 16 senators wrote, "It is our expectation that the Corps will work with Congress, our staff, and regional stakeholders before and after the report is issued so that we can expeditiously determine how to best move forward with a comprehensive approach to address Asian Carp and other aquatic invasive species."
The senators -- both Republicans and Democrats, and representing each state touching the lakes -- worry that the presence of Asian carp in the Great Lakes could devastate the lakes' fishing and tourism industries. The letter aims to expedite the process of implementing Corps recommendations.
Scientists reported on Tuesday that they detected Asian carp DNA in Lake Michigan, though they did not find live specimen. The species consume large amounts of plankton and could disrupt the Great Lakes food chain, harming native species.
"These fish could destroy the Great Lakes ecosystem, as well as boating and fishing industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs," Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told the Associated Press after the recent DNA discovery. Stabenow was one of the senators to sign onto Wednesday's letter.
There is an electric barrier on a waterway 37 miles from Chicago to prevent the invasive species from infiltrating Lake Michigan, where the DNA was discovered, the AP reported. Only one Asian carp has been found past the electric barrier.
Clarification: This story has been updated to include additional context about the Army Corps of Engineers' investigation of invasive species in the Great Lakes region, begun with the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The senators asked for guidance from the Corps on the report because it is not intended to include a formal recommendation.