Tonawanda News

March 29, 2012

Senators urge action on Asian Carp

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

— — U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are urging a federal committee to do more to prevent the spread of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes.

Both called on the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to extend the Army Corps of Engineers’ emergency authority over effected waterways in any area determined appropriate by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

In 2010, Asian carp were found just six miles from the Great Lakes, prompting Gillibrand to pressure the Army Corps of Engineers to temporarily close the O’Brien and Chicago Locks to prevent the invasive species from spreading into New York’s waterways.

However, Asian carp could also enter the Great Lakes via the Wabash River in Indiana and the Maumee River in Ohio, the senators said, and are pushing for this emergency authority in order to prevent an invasion.

Last month, Schumer and Gillibrand requested the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of a study on using hydraulic separation to prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

“The federal government has to take the looming threat from Asian Carp seriously, and the Army Corps should have every arrow in its quiver to fight back,” Schumer said. “By limiting the Army Corps’ authority, we’re merely handcuffing the agency tasked with leading the fight against this invasive species that threatens the health of our waterways and our economy. We should let the Army Corps do its job, and do everything in its power to protect our waterways and keep Asian Carp out of the Empire State.”

The current method of stopping the invasion of Asian Carp through the Chicago Area Waterway System is a series of three electrical barriers, preventing aquatic species from transferring between the Mississippi River watershed to the Lake Michigan watershed.

Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have asked the subcommittee to include language in their report that ensures that the corp’s jurisdiction is not limited to the Chicago Area and Ship Canal, but to other points of entry deemed threatened from an Asian carp invasion by Salazar.

Asian carp are large, prolific and consume vast amounts of food — weighing up to 100 pounds and ranging as long as four feet — disrupting the food chain that supports native fish.

Their large size, ravenous appetites and rapid rate of reproduction pose a significant threat to New York’s ecosystem. This aggressive invasive species could destroy the Great Lakes fish populations, devastating the $7 billion recreational fishing industry, tourism industry and the general economic well-being of the entire region, according to politicians and conservationists.

“The Asian carp pose a traumatic and long term threat to the Great Lakes and the enormous economic benefit the lakes provide to New York and the nation,” said Gillibrand, a member of the Environment & Public Works Committee. “The lakes help drive our economy, draw tourism, offer endless recreation and provide drinking water for millions of families. The Asian carp could potentially destroy the entire system, disrupting the food chain and disturbing the natural ecosystem permanently. We need to take aggressive action to stop the spread of Asian carp and establish a long term solution that will keep New York’s waterways and natural habitats free from invasive species.”