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Port Huron Times Herald Editorial: Candice Miller stands up to Asian carp menace

by Candice Miller on February 12, 2014

Feb. 11, 2014

http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20140211/OPINION/302110018/Candice-Miller-stands-up-Asian-carp-menace

Time clearly is a luxury those who hope to confront the Asian carp threat to the Great Lakes simply don’t have.

Since the species’ introduction to the American south in the 1970s, it has become well established in the Mississippi River watershed. So much so that carp have almost reached Lake Michigan, a potential disaster.

The voracious fish threatens native species by out-competing them for plankton, a critical food source. If it is able to establish itself in Lake Michigan, the carp could destroy Great Lakes fish populations and the industries that depend upon them.

Congress has been one of the few federal institutions to address the threat. Now there might be hope for greater action. U.S. Rep. Candice Miller has presented legislation to seal off the canals and rivers that connect to Lake Michigan and prevent Asian carp from penetrating the Great Lakes basin.

Miller, R-Harrison Township, wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the barriers, one of the options the federal agency listed in the long-awaited Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study it released in January.

The Stop Invasive Species Act of 2012 ordered the Army Corps to finish the 232-page study ahead of its scheduled 2015 deadline. Still, the report — four years in the making — didn’t provide any conclusive strategies to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

Miller’s bill proposes one. It is not an approach Chicago or the state of Illinois is likely to embrace.

Five states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan — are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit to force a Chicago canal that connects with Lake Michigan to be re-engineered to prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes. The state of Illinois has resisted calls to change the canal and to erect physical barriers to separate Lake Michigan from the city’s waterways.

The fate of Miller’s bill is uncertain. The Army Corps’ report said building permanent barriers could cost $15 billion and take 25 years to complete, points Chicago opponents already stressed as too expensive and harmful to commercial shipping.

Miller’s legislation speaks to the Great Lakes’ health as a whole. It is clear this precious natural resource could be undermined if something isn’t done to stop Asian carp.

Miller had to act.

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