Asian Carp Barred From Lake Michigan: Electronic Barriers Win Final Passage in House
Washington, DC - Permanent, federal fortification against Asian Carp entry into Lake Michigan gained final passage in the House last night, according to U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13), who authored the legislative provision.
The invasive species barrier authorization was included in the Conference Report on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), H.R. 1495, at Biggert's request. The bill passed the House by a vote of 381 to 40.
"For years, we have been fighting this battle one small step at a time," said Biggert. "Now it's final, it's permanent, and it's no longer just an Illinois responsibility."
"Thankfully, we had some extremely strong partners - from fishermen to Mayor Daley," continued Biggert. "The outstanding advocacy of the Mayor, the Illinois congressional delegation, and friends from other Great Lakes states helped to ensure that these barriers remain a national priority and a national responsibility."
"The Great Lakes are one of this country's most valuable natural resources because they make up 95 percent of the fresh surface water in the United States and 20 percent of the fresh surface water in the world. The amount of resources needed to complete this work is a fraction of the costs associated with devastation to the Great Lakes that Asian carp will cause if they move into Lake Michigan," said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. "I know that many in Congress, especially Rep. Biggert, have worked hard for this invasive species legislation and I appreciate their efforts."
Located on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the only aquatic link between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, the barriers are invisible electronic fences that repulse fish like the Asian carp.
In 2002, the Corps began operating a temporary demonstration barrier, which was designed to last two or three years. The Corps currently is completing construction of a permanent barrier. Under current law, when the Corps has completed construction of the permanent barrier, the State of Illinois, as a local project sponsor, would be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the barrier.
Based on H.R. 553, the Great Lakes Asian Carp Barrier Act, stand-alone legislation introduced by Biggert, the provision included in WRDA will require the federal government to:
- Complete construction of the second barrier;
- Upgrade the original demonstration barrier to make it permanent;
- Operate and maintain both the demonstration and permanent barriers as a system at full federal expense, saving the State of Illinois up to $1 million annually for the lifetime of the barriers; and
- Study the full range of options and technologies available to prevent the inter-basin transfer of aquatic invasive species.
"When all is said and done, it simply makes sense to upgrade the existing demonstration barrier to provide redundant protection," said Biggert. "In the case of preventing invasive species from endangering the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, no precaution is too great."
Preying on and competing with native species for food, living space, and spawning areas, the voracious Asian Carp grow between 50 and 150 pounds, eat up to 40 percent of their body weight every day, and each female can carry up to a million eggs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reported that an Asian Carp was spotted only 21 miles from the barrier.
"If the Asian Carp reach Lake Michigan and multiply in number," Biggert said, "They could devastate the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and endanger the multi-billion commercial fishing industry."
Also at Biggert's request, an initial appropriation of $7.65 million to upgrade and maintain the dispersal barriers was included in the Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations Act, which passed the House on July 17. That bill currently awaits action in the Senate.
In January, Biggert introduced another bill to protect the Great Lakes from Asian Carp. H.R. 83, the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act, would add black, silver, and bighead species of carp to the list of species that are prohibited from importation or shipment in interstate commerce.
The final conference report on WRDA now goes to the Senate where it is expect to pass soon. Although the bill still faces a potential veto threat from the Administration, proponents of the bill expect to have near veto-proof majorities in both chambers.