Durbin: CEQ Chair Says Coordinated Response Commander to be Named Within 30 Days

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – After a meeting with the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Nancy Sutley, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Obama Administration is working to appoint a Coordinated Response Commander for Asian carp – which Durbin requested in a June 25 letter to the President – within the next 30 days. Sutley also assured Durbin that the Obama Administration views the effort to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes as a top priority.


“The appointment of a Coordinated Response Commander will signal that the effort to prevent the Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan and establishing itself in the Great Lakes is a national priority,” said Durbin. “This individual would coordinate the day-to-day efforts of the multiple federal, state and local agencies to implement immediate, emergency actions in the next few months while we continue to determine effective long-term solutions. I am encouraged by the Administration’s commitment today.”


On June 30, Durbin joined Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) in introducing legislation to study permanent prevention of the Asian carp and other invasive species from entering the Great Lakes. The Permanent Prevention of Asian Carp Act will require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct and expedite a study detailing engineering options in order to determine the best way to permanently separate the Mississippi River Basin from Lake Michigan.


Sutley was on Capitol Hill today to testify at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power Subcommittee on the federal response to the discovery of Asian carp in Lake Calumet, Illinois last month.


Durbin submitted the following testimony for the hearing:


Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water Hearing

Subcommittee on Water and Power

Statement of Senator Richard J. Durbin

July 14, 2010


Thank you, Chairwoman Stabenow, for holding this hearing today. I share your commitment to take all necessary action to prevent Asian carp from establishing in the Great Lakes and commend your leadership on this issue.


Lake Michigan is of enormous environmental, recreational and economic value to the state of Illinois. The Great Lakes are a national treasure that must be protected.


Since 2003, we have been working with local and state agencies in Illinois and with federal agencies, primarily the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to stop the progress of the Asian carp in Illinois waterways. We have had some success. The Corps has completed construction of an electric carp barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal. The barrier has effectively slowed the migration of the fish north to Lake Michigan, buying us time to look at other, longer-term options.


But on June 22, 2010, our worst fears were confirmed. An Asian Carp was caught in Lake Calumet, just miles from Lake Michigan. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports the 19-pound male fish likely was not in spawning condition, but that capture cannot be taken lightly. A live fish on the wrong side of the electric barrier means we need to redouble our efforts and do everything in our power to stop this invasive species from entering Lake Michigan.


Recently, the Chairwoman and I, along with other senators representing Great Lakes states, asked this Administration to take immediate action and to appoint a coordinated response commander for Asian carp.


The Obama Administration has developed an Asian Carp Control Framework that includes several meaningful measures to prevent the spread of Asian carp. One strategy for containment involves bringing in commercial fisherman to limit the spread of the fish, and in fact, it was a commercial fisherman who captured the live Asian carp last month.


Several local, state and federal agencies already are working together in the effort to contain the Asian carp, and the coordinated effort of the agencies is commendable. With the discovery of a live fish on the wrong side of the carp barrier and Asian carp eggs in Indiana and Ohio, it is clear that a coordinated effort alone is not sufficient.


A coordinated response commander for Asian carp would provide the insistent, hands-on leadership that prevents the Asian carp from establishing itself in Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. This commander would coordinate federal, state and local agencies to implement immediate, emergency actions in the next few months while we continue to determine effective long-term solutions. I am encouraged that the Administration is considering this request.


A few weeks ago, Chairwoman Stabenow and I introduced a bill directing the US Army Corps of Engineers to undertake an expedited study of hydrological separation. The idea behind a hydrological separation is to create a physical separation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi water basins. This may offer the best hope for a long-term solution for containing not only this, but other invasive species.


Hydrological separation is a complex feat of engineering. While the Army Corps of Engineers has already started a broad examination of methods to control the spread of invasive species, we cannot wait for that comprehensive study. Our bill would create a separate, expedited study of how hydro separation could work, its environmental impact, and an estimate for construction time.


Finally, I have asked the federal agencies working with us in this effort to use everything at their disposal to step up the fight, including a Rotenone application in the area where the live carp was caught in Lake Calumet. I look forward to hearing more about their emergency plans.


The Great Lakes are a national treasure, a significant economic resource and an invaluable recreational ecosystem. The Asian carp have the potential to debilitate a multi-billion dollar fishing industry and significantly impair the tourism industry. Of far more significance, though, is the threat this invasive species poses to the ecological viability of the Great Lakes. Preventing the Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan should be a national priority.


I am committed to fighting this aggressive species and look forward to working with my colleagues representing the Great Lakes, the Administration, and federal and state agencies to ensure that efforts to contain Asian carp are coordinated, comprehensive and effective.