MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - Despite an unresolved dispute over Asian carp,
states that surround the Great Lakes hope to develop a common strategy for
battling invasive species during a meeting of governors and other top
officials that began Friday.
The sometimes contentious issue is among several up for discussion during a
weekend gathering of the Council of Great Lakes Governors on this Lake Huron
resort island. From New York to Minnesota, there’s broad agreement that
invasive species - particularly zebra and quagga mussels - have wreaked
havoc on the lakes’ ecosystems and the regional economy. But the states have
largely gone their own way in dealing with them.
"We’re talking about the largest body of fresh water in the world,” said
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, the council’s co-chairman along with Illinois
Gov. Pat Quinn. “It is important that we work hard to protect it.”
In addition to Snyder and Quinn, governors expected to attend the meeting
included Mike Pence of Indiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Ohio sent Lt.
Gov. Mary Taylor. Environmental regulators and other officials from
Minnesota, Pennsylvania and New York were on hand, along with Premier
Kathleen Wynne of the Canadian province of Ontario and provincial officials
The council was established three decades ago during another Mackinac Island
gathering inspired largely by concern that Great Lakes water might be piped
or shipped to arid regions. Off-and-on negotiations eventually produced a
compact prohibiting most water diversions.
Snyder, convening the first gathering of the governors since they signed the
compact in 2005, said he hoped they could unite on invasive species policy
as well but acknowledged differences remain.
Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania filed an unsuccessful
federal lawsuit against Illinois over a Chicago-area network of canals and
rivers that could provide a pathway to Lake Michigan for Asian carp. The
huge, voracious fish have infested the Mississippi River and its
tributaries. Scientists say if they reach the Great Lakes, the carp could
damage the $7 billion fishing industry by crowding out native species.
Illinois officials, backed by the federal government, contend an electric
barrier is keeping the carp at bay. The other states are pushing for
separation of the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds at Chicago.
Snyder told reporters no public negotiations were planned on the matter,
although he and Quinn might discuss it privately. The meeting is designed to
seek a strategy on which all the states can agree even if some issues remain
unresolved, he said.
"This is a common-ground opportunity ... to say where can we advance and
where can we show progress,” Snyder said.
Marc Miller, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said
his state had arranged for commercial fishermen to harvest 700 tons of Asian
carp on the Illinois River in recent years.
“That takes the pressure off the electric barrier and buys all of us some
time in finding a long-term solution,” which could include some type of
watershed separation, he said.
The states also will look for agreement on the best way to regulate ballast
water dumped by oceangoing cargo ships, the primary vehicle by which aquatic
invasive species have reached the Great Lakes.