September 13, 2011
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today addressed attendees at the Asian Carp Summit hosted by state tourism and conservation leaders, updating them on his efforts to fight the spread of aquatic invasive species like Asian carp and zebra mussels passing between the basins of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River via Chicago-area waterways.
In his remarks, Schuette addressed a recent decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase the levels of the less than perfect electrical barriers currently in place in the Chicago waterways:
"Instead of just turning up the electricity, we need to pick up the pace," said Schuette. "We can't afford to wait until 2015 to take real steps toward the solution of permanent ecological separation."
Schuette explained his joint efforts with Great Lakes attorneys general to build a national coalition by reaching out to colleagues in other states affected by aquatic invasive species. Schuette has asked fellow attorneys general across the nation to join Great Lakes attorneys general to demand immediate action by federal authorities to develop a permanent ecological separation at Chicago. Such a barrier would halt the spread of, and damage caused by, aquatic invasive species in both directions.
Schuette noted a recent announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which revealed that a panel of independent scientists has confirmed that the overall environmental DNA (eDNA) detection method is sound. This use of this method has resulted in positive detections for invasive Asian carp in Chicago waterways linked to Lake Michigan. In July 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted new eDNA test results online for Asian carp in the Chicago Area Waterway System. These results included seven new positive detections for silver carp beyond all electrical barriers. The positive test results, bringing the total to 85 since 2009, were found on June 23rd in Lake Calumet, less than six miles from Lake Michigan.
"If they are not stopped in Chicago, Asian carp will invade the Great Lakes waterways and decimate Michigan's tourism and sport-fishing industries," said Schuette. "By working together, we can put pressure on the federal government to act before it's too late."
Schuette noted a recent study conducted by independent scientists at the Center for Aquatic Conservation at the University of Notre Dame identified the Chicago Waterway as a "major pathway" for the spread of invasive species, concluding that "the canal represents a potential highway to environmental havoc for many species that pose a high risk to both the Great Lake and the Mississippi basins."
In July 2011, the Army Corps of Engineers released a list of 40 aquatic invasive species with the highest risk of traveling through the waterway in either direction. Of those species, 30 pose a high-risk to the Mississippi River Basin and ten, including Asian carp, pose a high-risk to the Great Lakes Basin. Current invasive species control efforts in the Chicago waterway, like electrical barriers, do not address the threat of all 40 species, especially those that may travel downstream.
Schuette and the coalition of attorneys general will urge Congress to require federal officials to move aggressively for a permanent ecological separation to address the urgency of the threats posed by biological invasions in both directions.
Michigan's lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago Area Waterway System to force immediate action to confront the Asian carp threat remains ongoing before Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr., of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The Asian Carp Summit held today in Lansing was sponsored by several tourism and conservation organizations, including: The Michigan Tourism and Lodging Association, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan Boating Industries Association, and the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association.