WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to the acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, raising alarm over the delay in finalizing the Brandon Road Study, a critical action-plan for keeping Asian carp from reaching Lake Erie.
Brown joined the bipartisan letter with Great Lakes Task Force Members, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). The Brandon Road Lock and Dam study will provide important guidance on how best to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and is an important hurdle before further action can be taken. The report has already been delayed by the Trump Administration from its expected release in February of this year. Once the report is finalized, a public comment period can begin, and further action can be decided in an open and transparent way.
“It is imperative that the USACE meet the original timeline for completing the Chief’s Report by January 2019,” wrote Brown and the Senators in the letter. “The USACE initiated the Brandon Road Study in April 2015 after the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin Study (GLMRIS) identified the Brandon Road Lock & Dam as a location to control the movement of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes.”
“USACE has indicated that implementing the recommended measures in the TSP is unlikely before 2025,” the Senators continued. “This timeline is particularly concerning given recent findings that demonstrated new ways for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes…This past June, an eight pound Silver carp made its way up the Illinois River, beyond the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, and was found above the electric barrier – just nine miles from Lake Michigan.”
In June, Brown introduced The Stop Asian Carp Now Act, which would compel the Trump Administration to release the Brandon Road Study within seven days of the bill’s enactment.
In 2015, Brown supported the Defending Our Great Lakes Act, to encourage the implementation of more water quality and flood mitigation projects as part of Asian carp prevention efforts. The legislation sought collaboration between the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force (IATF) – a collection of 11 U.S. Cabinet and federal agency heads, led by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – and state and local flood and water quality agencies, to ensure the implementation of more of these projects.
In May, Brown blasted President Trump’s budget for eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a highly successful program that jumpstarted efforts to protect, maintain and restore the integrity of the Great Lakes. The budget also reduces funding for agricultural conservation programs and eliminates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant Program, which funds Ohio State Stone Lab on Lake Erie. Stone Lab plays a critical role in monitoring and protecting Lake Erie.
Last Congress, Brown cosponsored the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2015 (GLEEPA) – a bill that would reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and codify the program into statute. In December, Brown successfully fought to include authorization for GLRI in the Senate water bill.
Full text of the letter is included below.
Mr. Ryan A. Fisher
Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army (Civil Works)
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0101
As Senators representing Great Lakes states, we write to share our views on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) draft Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) for the Brandon Road Study.
First, it is imperative that the USACE meet the original timeline for completing the Chief’s Report by January 2019. The USACE initiated the Brandon Road Study in April 2015 after the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin Study (GLMRIS) identified the Brandon Road Lock & Dam as a location to control the movement of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes. The USACE provided a 46-month timeline to complete Brandon Road Study, with an interim step of releasing the Tentatively Selected Plan by January 2017. This was already longer than the 3x3x3 rule enacted in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (P. L. 113-121), in which feasibility studies must result in a final report in three years or less. Despite the six-month delay in the release of the TSP, we fully expect the USACE to complete its Chief’s Report by January 2019. Secondly, we ask that you provide us an update on the timeline for completion of the Chief’s Report
Thirdly, USACE has indicated that implementing the recommended measures in the TSP is unlikely before 2025. This timeline is particularly concerning given recent findings that demonstrated new ways for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes. Field studies conducted in recent years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that small fish – including Asian Carp – can become entrained between barges and transported safely through the electric dispersal barriers near Romeoville, Illinois – located approximately 25 miles from Lake Michigan. Moreover, this past June, an eight pound Silver carp made its way up the Illinois River, beyond the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, and was found above the electric barrier – just nine miles from Lake Michigan.
While waterway shipping is important to the economies of the Great Lakes states, it is also essential that we prevent the devastating impacts that would occur if Asian Carp invade the Great Lakes. Studies have shown those impacts would include declines in native fish species and a one-third reduction of total fish weight in Lake Erie. This threatens the Great Lakes’ world-class $7 billion/year fishing industry, $16 billion/year recreational boating industry, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs these industries support.
We appreciate the USACE’s recognition that controlling the movement of aquatic invasive species such as Asian Carp is necessary, and we look forward to hearing from you on your commitment to complete the Chief’s Report by January 2019.
Thank you for your consideration of our request. We ask that this letter be included in the formal record of comments for the draft report.