Durbin, Biggert to Host Wednesday Meeting of Great Lakes Leaders to Chart Path Forward on Asian Carp Containment

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL) today announced that they have called a meeting of House and Senate leaders from states surrounding the Great Lakes to chart a path forward in the effort to contain Asian carp in Illinois. The meeting – to be held on Wednesday, January 27– will be attended by both Assistant Secretary of the Army, Jo-Ellen Darcy, who oversees the Army Corps of Engineers and Cameron Davis, Senior Advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency for Great Lakes issues.


“In the coming weeks, the White House Council on Environmental Quality will meet with Midwestern governors to discuss the Asian carp issue. It’s now time to bring members of Congress representing the Great Lakes states together in advance of that meeting to discuss a path forward,” said Durbin. “We must all work together – governors, Congress and the Administration – to find a solution that will protect our lakes, while preserving jobs and promoting economic activity in the region.”


“Illinois has been leading the charge to contain these invasive species from day one, but the Asian carp are a very real threat to every state, region, and locality that shares our concern about the Great Lakes,” said Biggert. “Working together, I am confident that we can stop these carp and preserve all the environmental and economic treasures afforded to us by the Great Lakes. I’m pleased to join Senator Durbin in bringing together lawmakers from across the region to examine the latest evidence of the carp’s movement, discuss the steps we’ve already taken, and urge our colleagues to join us in pressing ahead with sound solutions based on the best science available.”


On January 12, Durbin and Biggert hosted a briefing by federal, state and local officials at the Shedd Aquarium 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.


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 the O’Brien and Chicago locks, and the Army Corps estimates that closing the O’Brien lock alone would back-flood 14,000 homes.


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. The Obama administration recently launched a $475 million comprehensive Great Lakes initiative which provides a regional approach to controlling invasive species, reducing non-point-source pollution, and cleaning up contaminated sediment.


In the fall of 2009, Asian carp genetic material was found in regular water testing of the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal. Genetic material has also been found both in the Calumet River near Wilmette and in Lake Michigan. 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.