After reading Muskegon Critic's diary that discussed, among other things, the invasive quagga mussels in the Great Lakes, I am prompted to respond with a plea to the community. The Great Lakes face an immediate danger from a new invasive: the Asian Carp. Please call your legislators (capitol switchboard at 202-225-3121) and ask them to demand the Army Corps of Engineers take immediate action on the Asian Carp.
More details and video....
The dreaded Asian Carp grows up to 4 ½ feet, weighs up to 100 pounds, eats voraciously, and reproduces prodigiously. First introduced into Arkansas fish farms in the early 1970s, it has made its way to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, about 25 miles southwest of Lake Michigan. Because it eats nearly any aquatic vegetation, the Carp is disastrous to the food chain it invades. It is feared the fish would take over the ecosystem of the Great Lakes if it reaches Lake Michigan.
The Army Corps of Engineers constructed an electric fence in the Sanitary Canal in southern Cook County, near Lemont, Illinois to prevent the carp from encroaching on Lake Michigan. The barrier is designed to deliver 4 volts of electricity per inch of water at maximum capacity. The Army Corps (and some recreation and water transportation groups) were understandably concerned about threats to human safety from electrifying the water, and tested the barrier extensively. The barrier went live at 1 volt per inch in the spring. While relieved that the barrier was finally operational, lake advocates immediately called and continue to call for fully powering the fence to ensure the fish do not get past it.
Studies over the summer revealed that the Asian carp had migrated to within one mile of the barrier and it is currently at half power.
In September, the carp was detected in the Des Plaines River. Several years ago (by 2006, certainly), the Army Corps acknowledged that if heavy rain caused flooding of the Des Plaines River, which runs for several miles along the Sanitary Canal, the carp could invade the Canal north of the barrier. Such flooding is going to happen eventually, as in 2008 and 2009. However, nothing has been done to date to address this possibility.
Within the past two weeks, the carp were discovered in the Illinois & Michigan Canal, which also runs along the Sanitary Canal, The two canals are connected by culverts through which the carp could swim if flooding causes the water level to get high enough.
The Army Corps has investigated immediate preventive actions it could take to prevent the carp from getting into the Sanitary Canal, including sandbagging lower areas between the Des Plaines and the Sanitary Canal and closing off the connections between the two canals. However, the Corps said it lacked the required authority to take more permanent solutions. An emergency amendment was inserted into the annual energy and water appropriations bill that funds the Army Corps, to give it authority and funding to get moving. The amended bill passed out of Senate and, as far as I know, awaits the President's signature.
I've written this from my general knowledge (or lack thereof) so please forgive the lack of citations. For sources with, you know, authority I suggest Alliance for the Great Lakes or see some stories like thisby Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinal, who imho is the best Great Lakes journalist out there.
Here is a map (pdf) showing the proximity of the waterways.
Or watch this:
Please call your legislators!! I'm been saying to myself that this situation is just like the situation leading up to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I don't believe that human lives are at risk here, but it is the same in that the Army Corps was aware of risks with significant impact, and failed to take preventative action. Haven't we learned from the Katrina debacle?? Rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days in southwest Cook County, so action is needed immediately!
After you call your legislators, you might also call the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, as suggested by Jeff Alexander on the Healthy Lakes blog.