Rep. Louise Slaughter introduced a bill on the House floor Thursday to halt the spread of Asian Carp from the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes system, following a surge in political pressure for expedited action by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
Slaughter called the Stop Invasive Species Act "bipartisan legislation" that would speed the creation of an action plan to block the carp from entering local waterways through rivers and tributaries.
The congresswoman pointed to the economic benefits derived from lakes Erie and Ontario as well as the importance of the entire system as the largest source of fresh water on the planet.
“The Great Lakes make up 20 percent of the world's freshwater and we must do everything we can to protect them. In Western New York, we rely on the Great Lakes for fishing, shipping and recreation and the introduction of Asian carp could be devastating to the Lakes’ ecosystem and regional economy," said Slaughter, a co-chair of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force.
The Stop Invasive Species Act requires the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to submit to Congress an expedited action plan with options for stopping Asian carp from penetrating the Great Lakes across 18 possible points of entry. The bill requires the Army Corp to submit a progress report to Congress and the President within 90 days of the law’s enactment. The full plan would need to be completed within 18 months.
Under the Stop Invasive Species Act, the Army Corp would continue to examine modes of transportation across key waterways to ensure shipping could continue while mechanisms for preventing Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes are implemented.
The fish frequently enter waterways when ballast water from international freight ships is released. The carp are voracious eaters, consuming between 20 percent and 120 percent of its body weight each day, cleaning the water of plankton and other microbes that native fish require, essentially starving them of their food source.
“Time is a luxury we don't have which is why this legislation to expedite the protection of the Great Lakes from this damaging invasive species is so important.”
Slaughter has repeatedly noted that once an invasive species such as Asian carp is allowed to take hold in any part of the Great Lakes system, it is only a matter of time until the species spreads to the rest of the lakes.
The bill is supported by the Great Lakes Commission, The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Healing our Waters Coalition, National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited.
In January, Slaughter called on the Army Corps of Engineers to move quickly on a strategy to combat the threat of Asian carp armed with new information from a study analyzing various engineering options to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins in the Chicago Area Waterway System to prevent inter-basin movement of harmful aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp.
In a November letter to House Appropriations Committee leaders, Slaughter advocated for federal funding to protect the lakes.
"The lakes provide invaluable recreational opportunities and support shipping, fishing, boating and tourism industries that generate 1.5 million jobs and $62 billion in wages. Restoring the Great Lakes advances our regional strategy to create jobs, stimulate economic development and invest in freshwater resources and waterfront communities," the letter said.