TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A $50 million federal plan
released Wednesday for keeping hungry Asian carp from reaching the
valuable fish populations of the Great Lakes calls for reinforcing
electrical and other barriers currently in place and for field-testing
other methods, including the use of water guns and hormonal fish love
The Obama administration made improving its network of barriers a primary
focus of an updated blueprint for keeping bighead and silver carp from
reaching the five inland seas, even as they continue infesting the
Mississippi River and many of its tributaries.
"This strategy continues our aggressive effort to bolster our tools to
keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes while we work toward a long-term
solution," said John Goss of the White House Council on Environmental
Quality, who oversees the anti-carp initiative. "The 2013 framework will
strengthen our defenses against Asian carp and move innovative carp
control projects from research to field trials to implementation."
The much-maligned carp were imported decades ago to clear algae from fish
farms and sewage lagoons in the Deep South. They escaped during floods and
have migrated northward, gobbling huge amounts of plankton — tiny plants
and animals that virtually all fish eat at some point. Scientists differ
about how widely they would spread in the Great Lakes, but under
worst-case scenarios they would occupy large areas and severely disrupt
the $7 billion fishing industry.
With this year's spending, the administration will have devoted $200
million over four years to keep the Great Lakes carp-free. But many state
officials and advocacy groups contend that the only sure way to prevent
invasive species from migrating between the lakes and the Mississippi
system is to build dams or other structures near Chicago, where a man-made
canal links the two giant watersheds by forming a pathway between Lake
Michigan and the Illinois River.
Under pressure from Congress, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has
promised to release by year's end a short list of options for slamming the
door, although such a project could require many years and billions of
In the meantime, federal officials say an electric fish barrier in the
Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal 37 miles southwest of the city is keeping
the carp at bay. Critics note that dozens of water samples taken beyond
the barrier have tested positive for Asian carp DNA, although just one
live carp has been found there.
The barrier consists of three metal bars at the bottom of the canal that
emit electric pulses to repel fish or jolt those that refuse to turn back.
Under the administration's plan, a new section would be added this year to
replace a demonstration model installed a decade ago. Two segments at a
time will operate, with the third on standby.
To supplement the stationary barrier, the Illinois Department of Natural
Resources will oversee design and construction of a mobile electric device
that can be dragged behind a boat like a curtain. It could be used in
Chicago rivers and canals or elsewhere to herd fish away from places where
they don't belong.
The plan also calls for rebuilding a ditch berm to support a chain-link
fence in a marshy area near Fort Wayne, Ind., that has been identified as
a potential link between the carp-infested Wabash River and the Maumee
River, which flows into Lake Erie. Studies suggest that Erie could be
particularly vulnerable to a carp invasion because its shallow, warm
waters are hospitable to fish.
Other barriers are planned for the Ohio Erie Canal and Little Killbuck
Creek in Medina County, Ohio, which have been identified as potential
crossover points for invaders.
Additionally, federal agencies will continue developing and testing other
methods of catching, killing and controlling the unwanted fish. Methods on
the drawing board range from toxins that target Asian carp to water guns
and specially designed nets. Scientists also are developing ways to use
pheromones — chemicals secreted by fish to attract mates — to lure Asian
carp to where they could be netted or killed.
Teams also will expand water sampling areas in southern Lake Michigan,
western Lake Erie and other likely invasion spots. Other experts are
scheduled to complete a study of whether positive DNA hits mean live Asian
carp were actually present.
"Much progress has been made in the development and refinement of Asian
carp detection and control tools and in the understanding of the food and
habitat required for Asian carp reproduction and survival," said Leon
Carl, Midwest Region Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. The goal now
is to "get these new technologies and information into the hands of
managers and other decision makers," he said.
Republican Rep. Dave Camp and Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, both of
Michigan, sponsored legislation enacted in 2012 ordering the Army Corps to
expedite a report on permanently shielding the lakes from aquatic
invaders. They issued statements Wednesday praising the short-term steps
outlined for this year but saying more should be done.
"It is critically important that this report not only be done on time but
also be done right, with fully developed plans for separating the Great
Lakes from the carp's entry points to stop Asian carp once and for all,"