New data demands quicker effort to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes

Citing new information that indicates the threat of Asian carp and other foreign species invading the Great Lakes is more serious than ever, the National Wildlife Federation today called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate its study of how best to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

01-13-2011 // Jordan Lubetkin
Asian Carp

The Corps is currently holding a series of public hearings on its Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study, or GLMRIS (see hearing schedule below). The $25 million study, slated for completion in mid-2015, will explore ways to stop the movement of invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

"The Corps' timetable for completing the GLMRIS study is unacceptable — it gives Asian carp at least four more years to invade Lake Michigan and lay siege to the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery," said Marc Smith, a senior policy manager at the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center.

Asian carp are on the verge of invading Lake Michigan via the Chicago Waterway System, a series of artificial canals that link the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River system.

Despite evidence that Asian carp have breached a fish barrier in the Chicago canal, the Corps will take at least four more years to identify ways to separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed. Actual construction of any remedies would take longer yet.

No Time to Delay

Recent studies indicated that Asian carp — which breed like mosquitoes, eat like hogs and jump out of the water when disturbed by the sound of boat motors — now have unimpeded access to Lake Michigan.

"Studies have found that an Asian carp can swim several miles per day," Smith said. "At that rate, Asian carp in the Chicago canals could easily spread throughout all five Great Lakes by the time the Corps finishes its GLMRIS report in 2015."

The Corps has identified 18 sites in the Midwest where 160 different aquatic invasive species could move between the two watersheds. Agency officials have said Asian carp are most likely to invade the Great Lakes via the Chicago Waterway System and a marsh near Fort Wayne, Ind., that links the carp-infested Wabash River to the Maumee River during floods.

NWF believes the Corps should, and could, finish the Chicago portion of its study within 18 months.

NWF also wants the Corps to follow its mandate from Congress and focus on preventing the introduction of Asian carp and other invasive species into the Great Lakes. Smith said the agency's focus on reducing the risk of invasive species entering the lakes would slow efforts to create hydrologic barriers between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

Barriers Needed

Permanent barriers are the only way to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from moving between two of the largest freshwater ecosystems in North America, Smith said.

"We know how to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River system from invading the Great Lakes," Smith said. "What we need is a commitment from the Corps of Engineers to accelerate its study before the battle to save the Great Lakes from these menacing fish is lost."

Sign up to speak at a public hearings on the Corps of Engineers' Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study, known as GLMRIS.

Public hearing dates:

  • Jan. 13: Cleveland, Ohio. 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Great Lakes Science Center, 601 Erieside Ave.
  • Jan. 20: Minneapolis, Minn.; 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the University of Minnesota's McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak St., SE #35
  • Jan. 25: Green Bay, Wis.; 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College — Center for Business and Industry, 2740 W Mason St.
  • Jan. 27: Traverse City, Mich.; 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hagerty Center, 715 E Front St.
  • Feb. 1: Cincinnati, Ohio; 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the University of Cincinnati — Tangeman University Center, 2766 UC Main Street.
  • Feb. 3: Ypsilanti, Mich.; 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest, 1275 S Huron St., Ypsilanti.
  • Feb. 8: St. Louis. 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the National Great Rivers Museum, #2 Locks & Dam Way, Alton, Ill.
  • Feb. 10: Vicksburg, Miss.; 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Vicksburg Convention Center, 1600 Mulberry St.
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