Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the STOP Asian Carp Act is included in the must-pass transportation bill that will achieve final Congressional passage today. Specifically, the Senators' legislation requires the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to expedite a study of the physical separation of the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes in the Chicago Area Waterway System to prevent the transfer of Asian carp and other aquatic species between these waters. Once USACE determines the best separation project, they must then proceed directly to project preconstruction engineering and design, rather than wait for Congress to authorize them to take action on engineering and design. In addition, the STOP Asian Carp Act requires that the USACE secretary complete the study and report of the waterway separation no later than 18 months after the date of enactment of the act.
In February, Schumer and Gillibrand pushed 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 and New York's waterways. Their call followed a February report that found that separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins would be an effective way of keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and prevent the potential billions in damage the fish could cause. Last year, Asian carp were found six miles from the Great Lakes, prompting Senator Gillibrand to urge the Army Corps to temporarily close the O'Brien and Chicago Locks to prevent the invasive species from spreading into New York's waterways.
"Fishing, boating and recreation in the Great Lakes is a major industry in Western and Northern New York, and today's passage of the STOP Asian Carp Act will ensure that the Army Corps takes swift and decisive action to save it from the looming threat of Asian carp," said Senator Schumer. "Reports in February demonstrated the dire need to separate the Chicago Waterway from the Great Lakes in order to prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes system, and this legislation will help ensure that the federal government moves forward expeditiously with the study and implementation of this waterway separation plan. I am pleased that this proposal will kick separation efforts into high gear, so that we can give Lakes Erie and Ontario the protection they need and deserve."
"The Asian carp pose a real and lasting 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."
A hydrological separation would provide a physical blockade on the Chicago Area Waterway System to disconnect the Mississippi River watershed from the Lake Michigan watershed, preventing aquatic species from transferring between the two bodies of water. The study conducted by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative found that restoring the natural separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basis could prevent an estimated $200 million in annual damages that Asian Carp could cause if they successfully infiltrated in to the Great Lakes. The plan would roughly cost families about $1 per month until 2059 to cover the cost of separating the bodies of water.
Asian carp are large, prolific and consume vast amounts of food -- weighing up to 100 pounds and growing 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, boating industry, tourism industry and the general economic wellbeing 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.