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November 18, 2011

Senators address Asian carp threat

— — To prevent what they describe as the spread of Asian carp into New York’s waterways through the Great Lakes, senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to quickly investigate the effectiveness of a hydrological separation of the Chicago Area Waterway System from Lake Michigan. The effort is being included as an amendment to the Energy and Water and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

Last year, Asian carp were found just six miles from the Great Lakes, prompting Gillibrand to urge the Army Corps to temporarily close the O’Brien and Chicago locks to prevent the invasive species from spreading into New York’s waterways.

“The threat of Asian carp infiltrating the Great Lakes poses a serious problem to the economy of upstate New York, and I am urging the Army Corps to investigate hydraulic separation as a method to block these destructive animals from invading New York,” Schumer said. “We need to do all we can to prevent Asian carp from contaminating the Great Lakes, which would deal a direct blow to people who depend on the Great Lakes for work and for play. These fish are voracious eaters that will shred the Great Lakes ecosystem, crowd out popular native species, severely impact boaters and diminish the enjoyment of beachgoers.”

A hydrological separation would provide a physical blockade on the Chicago Area Waterway System to disconnect the Mississippi River watershed from the Lake Michigan watershed, preventing aquatic species from transferring between the two bodies of water, according to the senators. The legislation would require the investigation of the separation’s effectiveness within 18 months of the bill’s passage.

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, studies have shown. 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.   

 “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.”

Both senators said the economy and the ecosystem of the entire Great Lakes region are at risk because of the threat of the invasive Asian carp. Current efforts to control the spread of Asian carp include two electrical barriers around Chicago where the Mississippi River links to the Great Lakes. However, these efforts have fallen short, as illustrated by evidence indicating that Asian carp may have migrated past the electrical barrier.

“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.”

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