Durbin Commends Obama Administration for Coordinated Effort to Control Asian Carp

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement after the release of the Obama Administration’s Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework which coordinates the efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and the U.S. Coast Guard to combat the spread of Asian Carp.

“The effort to control Asian Carp received an unprecedented investment from the Obama Administration today. The $78.5 million strategic framework proposes 25 short and long term actions involving four federal agencies that will work closely with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the City of Chicago. It is clear that the Administration is prepared to wage an aggressive battle prevent this invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes.

“I am committed to working together to find a solution that will protect our lakes, while preserving jobs and promoting economic activity in the region.”

On January 26, Durbin and Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL) held 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. In the meeting, Members of Congress agreed to seek $20 million in federal funding to implement the 2007 US Fish & Wildlife Service Management and Control plan for the Asian carp which identifies a wide range of techniques for addressing the carp such as: increasing commercial fishing and Asian carp harvests; finding a new poison that only targets the Asian carp; and researching pheromones and other technology to attract carp to known locations.

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.

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.

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.

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.