Electrical carp barrier is too flimsy a Great Lakes shield

cleveland.com

Lively, leaping Asian carp fill waterways, endanger boaters
Published: Sunday, June 03, 2012, 2:00 PM
The Plain Dealer Editorial Board By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board
D’Arcy Egan, The Plain DealerAsian carp now dominate the fish population of the Illinois River, and studies are not needed for proof. Boaters can provoke the schools of silver carp into jumping with the noise of their boat motors, acrobatics that put boaters at risk. What can’t be seen are the huge numbers of bighead carp, as well as grass carp and black carp.

The recent failure of two of three electric barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal along with their backup generator gave piscine predators — aka Asian carp — a 13-minute window of opportunity to establish a finhold in Lake Michigan.

Whether the invaders swam past the nonoperable barriers and into the Great Lakes during the power outage May 2 is unknown.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, of course, is clueless, assuring a rightfully skeptical multibillion-dollar fishing industry that the problem has been addressed and shouldn’t happen again.

That jolted Rep. Marcy Kaptur into action. The Democrat from Toledo fired off a letter May 18 to the corps, requesting a detailed report of what went wrong and how it can be prevented in future. It was signed by 30 fellow representatives from Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio.

As of last Friday, the corps had not responded.

The electric barriers are not true barriers, even when they “work” by discouraging fish from swimming past them. The only sure solution is the hydrological separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, admittedly a daunting and expensive engineering task. But anything less is a waste of time and taxpayer money, and jeopardizes an irreplaceable natural resource.

As long as the silver and bighead carp remember how to swim and the only thing standing between them and the continent’s largest freshwater ecosystem is a balking White House and corps, the Great Lakes remain at serious risk.

© 2012 cleveland.com. All rights reserved.

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