WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) visited the University of Toledo's Lake Erie Center to discuss efforts to combat Asian Carp. Brown was joined by Carol A. Stepien, Director of the Lake Erie Research Center who conducts research on invasive species, and Don McGee, a charter boat operator. Brown discussed his efforts to pass the CARP ACT (Close All Routes and Prevent Asian Carp Today), which would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent the migration of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes.
"Protecting Lake Erie from Asian carp is about protecting our regional economy and the livelihood of thousands of Ohioans," Brown said. "Lake Erie is an invaluable resource -- providing a source of water for countless households, generating economic activity for the region, and providing jobs through commerce, fishing, and tourism. The CARP Act will ensure that Lake Erie's ecosystems - and our region's economic development - are not jeopardized by an influx of Asian carp."
Brown is fighting to pass the CARP ACT, legislation aimed at preventing the potential migration of Asian Carp from the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes. Recent testing has shown the presence of Asian carp DNA in the waterway linking the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes.
The CARP ACT would ensure the immediate closure of the O'Brien Lock and Dam and the Chicago Controlling Works until a permanent lock operations strategy is developed. The Army Corps of Engineers would install barriers in the North Shore Channel and the Grand and Little Calumet Rivers to prevent the migration of bighead and silver carps into Lake Michigan.
The legislation also calls for two studies to mitigate the impact on existing commerce in the canals and rivers and to decrease the effects on Chicago flood control. The Army Corps of Engineers will also have the authority to eliminate and prevent the spread of Asian Carp by utilizing fish toxicant, commercial fishing and netting, and harvesting.
Last December, testing of a six-mile stretch of the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal downstream of the electric barrier yielded one bighead carp. Last week, the Obama Administration voluntarily employed several measures called for the in the CARP Act by temporarily closing the O'Brien Locks on May 20. This round of testing did not produce any carp. Because these fish still pose a severe threat to Lake Erie, Brown is fighting for the construction of permanent barriers between the Chicago Waterway and the Great Lakes.
Asian Carp is an invasive species - a non-native fish that competes with native species for food - that would threaten the ecosystem of Lake Erie. Researchers have found that in many sections of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, Asian Carp are the only species present. More than 185 species of fish, mussels, and plants from Asia and Eastern Europe are already in the Great Lakes system, choking out native species.
Lake Erie is the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes and is home to more than half the lake system's fish. Thousands of people visit Lake Erie each year, spending an estimated $1.1 billion a year on lodging, travel and food specifically to catch sport fish like walleye and perch. In total, the Lake is estimated to generate $50 billion in economic activity each year.
Brown is a tireless advocate for the Great Lakes. In December 2009, Brown signed a letter urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address the spread of Asian Carp. He helped pass the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact, which establishes common stewardship goals for the Great Lakes and a common set of rules that will be followed by the eight Great Lakes states. He also fought to include more than $475 million in the Fiscal Year 2010 budget for Great Lakes cleanup - of which $14 million has been devoted to initiatives aimed at preventing an influx of Asian carp.