Urging action in fight against Asian carp

The Michigan Senate Natural Resources Committee considers legislation that affects us all. The committee has been referred bills to protect the Great Lakes and our inland lakes and rivers; bills that would strengthen environmental protections; and bills to protect wildlife.

On Earth Day 2016, it is an appropriate time to consider a resolution the committee worked on to help protect our waters and environment against a critical threat.

Senate Resolution 12, as approved by the Senate, is the latest of a series of measures advocating for the federal government to take a more aggressive role in protecting the Great Lakes from a potential Asian carp invasion that could jeopardize jobs in a $7 billion fishing industry and $9 billion recreational boating industry.

The state of Michigan, surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, is literally defined by the lakes. Consequently, the health of our economy and quality of life are intertwined with the health of the lakes.

Asian carp are an acute threat to the Great Lakes. The environmental and economic impact of these fish if they get into the Great Lakes would be catastrophic.

The Chicago Area Waterway System, connecting the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems, is a major pathway for aquatic invasive species (AIS) to spread between the two systems. Zebra mussels used this pathway to spread from the Great Lakes, leading to millions of dollars in annual control costs for industries and public utilities. Now, Asian carp stand poised to use this pathway to invade the Great Lakes.

A permanent, long-term solution to this problem must be identified and implemented. The problem of Asian carp and other AIS using this man-made connection is not going away and will not resolve itself.

The Chicago Area Waterway System Advisory Committee was formed in May 2014 with the goal of reaching consensus on short- and long-term measures to prevent Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species from moving between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. Thirty-four representatives from government; industry; and commercial, recreational and environmental groups came together to solve this pressing problem.

SR 12 supports the advisory committee’s recommendations to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan.

Previous resolutions approved by the Senate Natural Resources Committee also urged Congress and President Obama to expeditiously evaluate all options, including hydrologic and ecological separation, while minimizing impacts on transportation and then implement those measures.

We need action to help prevent a disaster that would decimate our vibrant fishing, tourism and boating industries and wreak havoc on the ecosystems of the Great Lakes and all its rivers.

There are no perfect long-term solutions to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, but leaving the lakes vulnerable is the costliest option.