To prevent the spread of Asian carp into New York's waterways through the Great Lakes, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are urging the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to extend the Army Corps of Engineers' emergency authority over effected waterways in any area determined appropriate by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
In 2010, Asian carp were found just six miles from the Great Lakes, prompting Senator Gillibrand to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to temporarily close the O'Brien and Chicago Locks to prevent the invasive species from spreading into New York's waterways. However, Asian carp could also enter the Great Lakes via the Wabash River in Indiana and the Maumee River in Ohio, and the Senators are pushing for this emergency authority in order to prevent an invasion.
Last month, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand urged the Army Corps of Engineers to rapidly complete their study on using hydraulic separation to prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.
"The federal government has to take the looming threat from Asian Carp seriously, and the Army Corps should have every arrow in its quiver to fight back," said Senator Schumer. "By limiting the Army Corps' authority, we're merely handcuffing the agency tasked with leading the fight against this invasive species that threatens the health of our waterways and our economy. We should let the Army Corps do its job, and do everything in its power to protect our waterways and keep Asian Carp out of the Empire State."
"The Asian carp pose a traumatic and long term threat to the Great Lakes and the enormous economic benefit the lakes provide to New York and the nation," said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Environment & Public Works Committee. "The lakes help drive our economy, draw tourism, offer endless recreation and provide drinking water for millions of families. The Asian carp could potentially destroy the entire system, disrupting the food chain and disturbing the natural ecosystem permanently. We need to take aggressive action to stop the spread of Asian carp and establish a long term solution that will keep New York's waterways and natural habitats free from invasive species."
The current method of stopping the invasion of Asian Carp through the Chicago Area Waterway System is a series of electrical barriers, preventing aquatic species from transferring between the Mississippi River watershed to the Lake Michigan watershed. Senator's Schumer and Gillibrand are urging the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to include language in their report that ensures that the Corp of Engineers' jurisdiction is not limited to the Chicago Area and Ship Canal, but to other points of entry deemed threatened from an Asian carp invasion by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, including the Wabash River in Indiana, where Asian carp have also been found, which has tributaries that during flooding could flow into the Maumee River and into the Great Lakes.
Asian carp are large, prolific and consume vast amounts of food -- weighing up to 100 pounds and ranging as long as four feet -- disrupting the food chain that supports native fish. Their large size, ravenous appetites and rapid rate of reproduction pose a significant threat to New York's ecosystem. This aggressive invasive species could destroy the Great Lakes fish populations, devastating the $7 billion recreational fishing industry, tourism industry and the general economic well-being of the entire region.
The economy and the ecosystem of the entire Great Lakes region are at risk because of the imminent threat of the invasive Asian carp. Current efforts to control the spread of Asian carp include two electrical barriers around Chicago where the Mississippi River links to the Great Lakes. However, these efforts have fallen short, as illustrated by evidence indicating that Asian carp may have migrated past the electrical barrier.
The letter below was signed by a bipartisan group of fellow Great Lakes region Senators, including Carl Levin, Mark Kirk, Robert Casey, Sherrod Brown, Debbie Stabenow, Al Franken, and Richard Durbin.
Dear Chairman Feinstein and Ranking Member Alexander:
As members of the Great Lakes delegation, we are writing to request that you add language to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) so that the Army Corps of Engineers can continue to implement emergency measures to stop the spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes. Details regarding this request are provided below.
We urge the Committee to extend the Corps of Engineers' emergency authority to prevent the interbasic transfer of aquatic invasive species through FY13. We also ask the Committee to include report language to ensure that the emergency authority is modified such that it is not limited to only the Chicago Area and Ship Canal, but to any area the Secretary determines to be appropriate to prevent aquatic nuisance species from dispersing into the Great Lakes by way of any hydrologic connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin.
The Great Lakes support a $7 billion fishing industry that provides hundreds of thousands of jobs. Keeping invasive species, including the destructive Asian Carp, out of the Great Lakes is critical to the health of the lakes nad the jobs they support. Congress provided authority to the Corps of Engineers in Fiscal Year 2012 (in Section 105 of the appropriations bill) to implement certain emergency measures to prevent Asian carp from bypassing the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to keep them from entering the Great Lakes. We ask you to extend this emergency authority through FY13, and modify it such that the Corps could implement any emergency measures, without geographic limitation. We seek to ensure that the Corps has the flexibility to address any emergency situation including those outside the Chicago area such as hydrologic connections in other states. Providing this authority is vital for the protection of the Great Lakes.