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April 20, 2012

Bill to prevent Asian carp infestation introduced

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.

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