U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) today issued the following statements regarding a power outage and equipment failure that rendered the electronic barriers in the Chicago Waterway inoperable, leaving the Great Lakes unprotected from Asian carp infestation:
"These barriers are the only thing standing between the Asian carp and our Great Lakes," Stabenow said. "If carp had been able to get through while the barriers were down, it could have been absolutely devastating to our economy and our way of life. It is now more clear than ever that we need urgent action on a permanent solution that stops the threat of Asian carp once and for all."
"While the Corps was fortunately able to respond quickly to the barrier losing power, this glitch illustrates what we already know - electric barriers and chain link fences will not hold back Asian carp forever," Camp said. "Severing the man-made ties between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes is the only way to ensure Asian carp are not allowed to devastate the Great Lakes and the multi-billion dollar economy they support."
According to the Army Corp of Engineers, on Wednesday, May 2, at 12:58pm (CDT), a power failure and a subsequent failure of the backup generators resulted in a 13 minute lapse during which all of the three electric dispersal barriers were offline. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee are now investigating the cause of the failures and completing an assessment of whether any fish were present near the barriers when they failed. The barriers have been in place since 2002, when the first barrier was installed, to stop Asian carp travelling through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal from reaching Lake Michigan.
The barriers are in place to stop the spread of invasive Asian carp, which threaten to irreparably devastate the Great Lakes ecosystem, as well as the $16 billion boating industry, $7 billion fishing industry, and hundreds of thousands of jobs the Great Lakes support.
Sen. Stabenow and Rep. Camp have each introduced a bill in the Senate and House, respectively, to speed up the development of a better, permanent solution to stop Asian carp and other invasive species. The Stop Invasive Species Act requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to submit to Congress an expedited action plan for stopping Asian carp from penetrating the Great Lakes within 18 months. News of the electronic barriers' failure further illustrates the need for the legislation.
An amendment based on the Stabenow-Camp legislation passed the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
Stabenow and Camp's legislation is supported by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is the leading Republican cosponsor of the bill in the Senate, with Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Carl Levin (D-Royal Oak, MI), Robert Casey (D-PA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN) cosponsoring as well. Congressman Camp is joined by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) as the lead Democratic sponsor in the House.
The bill is also supported by the Great Lakes Commission, The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Healing our Waters Coalition, National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited.