Carp evidence: DNA samples in Lake Erie call for a solution

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More Asian carp DNA has turned up in Lake Erie, accelerating the urgent need for Congress and the Obama administration to push the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move faster on a long-term solution to the threat posed by the voracious fish.

Twenty of 150 water samples collected in early August from Lake Erie's Sandusky Bay included DNA of silver carp, the species that captures attention by leaping into the air when scared by boat motors. It is one of four main species of Asian carp, and one of the two that are the biggest threats to the Great Lakes region's $7 billion fishery.

The other is Asian bighead carp, which are larger and eat more. Bighead carp weigh up to 100 pounds. Asian carp disrupt the food chain and threaten to devour other species in the waterways they invade.

The Obama administration has invested much time and effort in helping the president's home state of Illinois fend off efforts to suspend shipping in the Chicago Area Waterway System temporarily to address the carp threat. Otherwise, the lakes region would be further ahead.

It's not known whether Lake Erie has Asian carp. If so, there's no way to know if they arrived through the passageway that connects Lake Michigan to the carp-infested Mississippi River. But lawmakers who support a separation of the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds are right to keep pushing for that outcome.

Carp DNA can be transported into Lake Erie in the bilge water of freighters or other boats, via storm sewers or by fish-eating birds. But the latest discovery suggests that previous identification of bighead carp DNA in Sandusky Bay was not a fluke.

State and federal agencies, with help from conservation groups and universities, have canvassed the five Great Lakes since 2010. A study for the Great Lakes Commission says the two watersheds could be separated hydrologically for $9.5 billion -- less than the cost of some federal highway projects.

How much more carp DNA must be found throughout the Great Lakes before the corps becomes more diligent about finally giving Congress its plan to repel the carp invasion?

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