Asian carp continue their relentless approach to the Great Lakes — if they haven’t already arrived. An invasion of the lakes, including Lake Erie, by the voracious predators threatens a multibillion-dollar fishery valuable to states including Pennsylvania and has implications for jobs, the economy and the environment.
Yet the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to dither instead of lobbying aggressively for the only solution that now seems likely to work: separation of the Great Lakes basin from the Mississippi River basin, where Asian carp have been prevalent for two decades. That option was one of eight the corps offered this week, as it dumped the problem in the lap of Congress.
Physically separating the Lake Michigan and Mississippi River watersheds, which are connected near Chicago, would be technologically complicated, hugely expensive — up to $18.4 billion — and time consuming, taking as long as 25 years to complete.
The plan is unpopular among business and political leaders in Illinois, President Barack Obama’s home state, as well as the shipping industry. But because of delay by the corps and politicians while the carp have advanced, the time has passed for less-extensive solutions.
Last year, Asian carp DNA was found in Lake Michigan. A live Asian carp was caught in a lake next to a river that feeds into Lake Michigan. If Congress is to act quickly to stop the onslaught, it needs a specific proposal from the corps aimed at achieving a permanent solution.
Western Pennsylvania has more at stake than other states since the destructive fish are also making their way up the Ohio River.
The time for talk has passed. The corps needs to produce a plan to keep the carp out of the lakes, and Congress needs to approve it — now.