Durbin And Biggert Host Briefing On Asian Carp Containment

[CHICAGO, IL] –U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL) hosted a briefing by federal, state and local officials at the Shedd Aquarium today regarding the containment of Asian carp in Illinois. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the City of Chicago, the Office of the Attorney General, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources all provided perspectives on the current situation, further mitigation options, and likely next steps.
Asian carp threaten the Great Lakes ecosystem because they consume large quantities of phytoplankton, which is critical to the stability of the ecosystem. The fish can grow to an average of four feet and 60 pounds, and can consume up to 40 percent of their body weight in plankton per day.  
Durbin and Biggert have a long history of working together to combat the spread of Asian carp, and from FY2003 through FY2010 they have secured more than $25 million in federal funding to contain the invasive species, and to keep it from entering Lake Michigan. State and federal agencies have already spent millions of dollars to contain the fish, particularly through the electric Asian Carp Barrier project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since 1998, the barrier project has received $41.2 million in federal funding.
Durbin noted the Midwest’s history of regional cooperation on Great Lakes issues and the strong support the region has received from the Obama administration, which launched a comprehensive Great Lakes initiative early last year. The President asked for and Congress approved an unprecedented level of funding for the Great Lakes, $475 million in the FY2010 budget. The fully funded initiative provides a regional approach to controlling invasive species, reducing non-point-source pollution, and cleaning up contaminated sediment. Approximately $13 million was recently allocated to the Army Corps to address the Asian carp situation in Illinois.
We don’t know yet what course of action will ensure that these carp don’t reach the Lake, but we do know that every level of government is committed to restoring and protecting our Great Lakes,” said Durbin. “Today’s meeting is just one step on our path of working together to establish and implement a long-term, comprehensive Asian carp containment plan.
“The evidence is clear–these carp are on our doorstep,” said Biggert.  “We must work together–quickly–to forge ahead with scientifically-sound solutions that will permanently protect our lakes, while preserving our jobs and commerce.  The full operation of both electronic barrier systems is an important step, but much remains to be done.  I’m very pleased to join a long-time ally in this fight, Senator Durbin, in hosting today’s briefing to keep Great Lakes leaders at every level apprised of where we stand and to continue working together on what must be done next.”
In the fall of 2009, Asian carp genetic material was found in regular water testing of the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal. Through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the State of Illinois, in collaboration with the relevant federal agencies, took an unprecedented $700,000 effort and applied Rotenone to six miles of the Canal to kill any Asian carp near the barrier. In addition to finding positive eDNA in the Canal, genetic material was also found in the Des Plaines River, north of the electric dispersal barrier. 
If the carp reach Lake Michigan, they have the potential to damage the economy and ecosystem of the Great Lakes region, where the fishing industry alone is valued at $7 billion annually. Yet the community and economic implications of closing the locks of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal must be considered. The shipping industry used the canal to move nearly 7 million tons of cargo in 2008 through tens of thousands of vessel passages, and the Army Corps estimates that closing the O’Brien lock alone would back-flood 14,000 homes.
“If you ask the people in the Chicago area what they treasure most about the area, most of them will put Lake Michigan at the top of the list. Not only does Lake Michigan provide entertainment and recreation year round, it supports industry—primarily fishing and shipping. We need to protect the ecological and economic well-being of this treasured resource,” said Durbin.