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Clay Township supports Rep. Miller’s bill to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes

by Candice Miller on April 4, 2014

By Jim Bloch, Voice Reporter

http://www.voicenews.com/articles/2014/04/04/news/doc533ea5553e6ea888832060.txt?viewmode=fullstory

The Clay Township Board of Trustees recently joined 12 other stakeholders in supporting a legislative proposal by 10th District Rep. Candice Miller to keep the invasive, voracious Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

Miller introduced House Resolution 4001, Defending Against Aquatic Invasive Species Act, on Feb. 5, calling for the physical separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, now connected by the 28-mile Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The canal, built in 1900, was designed to use water from Lake Michigan to flush raw sewage from the Chicago River into the Illinois River and eventually to the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ranks the canal as the most likely point of entry to the Great Lakes of the Asian carp, first introduced to control algae in catfish farms in Louisiana and Mississippi in the 1970s. Electric barriers are now in place to stop the fish from migrating into Lake Michigan.

The Asian carp are filter feeders, eating the tiny zooplankton and phytoplankton on the bottom of the lake. They are one of the most voracious of invasive aquatic species, some growing 60 to 100 pounds, and consuming as much as 20 percent of their body weight in food per day.

Miller introduced her legislation in the wake of a five-year study by the USACE, released early in January, that evaluated a number of options – ranging from leaving things as they are to a 25-year, $18 billion project to separate the two mighty watersheds. The report was titled the “Great Lakes Mississippi River Interbasin Study.”

“Unfortunately, the Corps indicated that they did not have the legal authority to build such a barrier,” said Miller in a Feb. 5 statement.

Her bill, if passed, would do what USACE couldn’t order itself to do: Authorize the Secretary of the Army to sever the connection between the watersheds.

“If enacted, the legislation would require the Secretary to start designing the project within 180 days in consultation with important stakeholders, including the governors of the surrounding states and the Great Lakes Commission,” said Miller. “Once completed, the Secretary would have another 180 days to start construction.”

Miller’s legislation has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, said legislative assistant Salley Wood. Its four House co-sponsors are reps. Dan Benishek, John Conyers, Mike Rogers, all of Michigan, and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.

Clay Township, on the northern shore of Lake St. Clair, passed a resolution in support of Miller’s bill on March 17. The resolution noted that the township features 27 miles of shoreline on the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair, which together form the basis of its tourism industry, “which includes parks, and several water sports, such as kayaking, fishing charters, swimming and boating.”

“The spread of Asian carp further into the Great Lakes would devastate these activities,” the Clay resolution said.

“Lake St. Clair is a shallow, fertile, very productive lake that would allow Asian carp, especially juveniles, to grow and prosper,” Charlie Wooley, deputy regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Minneapolis, told The Voice 18 months ago.

The township board voted unanimously in support of the resolution. Clerk Lisa White and Trustee Tom Fetter were absent.

A day later, Sanilac County Board of Commissioners came out in support of Miller’s bill.

On April 1, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette formally commented on the Corps’ report.

“Schuette’s Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Division found the more than 10,000 page report to be ‘incomplete,’ ‘seriously flawed’ and failing to ‘propose any concrete plan of action,’” according to a press release from his office. “Instead, Schuette continues to call on the Corps to take immediate action and recommends a full separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins to prevent the invasion of Asian carp.”

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com.

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