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Keeping carp out of Great Lakes could take years and cost billions

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Rebecca Williams
Michigan Radio
A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium (perhaps a face only its mother could love).

A new report says a permanent solution to the Asian carp threat to the Great Lakes could take years to build and cost billions of dollars.

The report says it’s very possible for the invasive species to slip from the Mississippi River system into the Great Lakes. And that it’s possible for the species to live in the lakes and grow in population.

The report was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Congress.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) says the report outlines the dangers posed by the carp to the Great Lakes ecosystem. But she says it fails to recommend a permanent solution.

“We need to do this as quickly as possible in the most cost-effective way,” she said. “I think that’s why the next step is to look at these kinds of things, and then how to do something that’s meaningful and permanent as quickly as possible.”

Stabenow says that likely means finding a way to physically separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi system where they meet at different points in Indiana and Illinois – including a busy shipping canal in Chicago.

“In the long run, I believe that that solution is the one that the doctor ordered,” said Joel Brammeier of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

But Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) said that’s not going to happen until Congress approves a plan and appropriates the money – and that won’t be easy. Camp says that’s why it would have been preferable for the report to recommend a long-term solution,

“There’s really an urgency,” he said. “The threat of Asian carp is an imminent one and we need to find a sound proposal that is more developed, take the engineering and go to Congress to get funding and other support.”

Camp says maintaining the status quo for years into the future should not be an option. 

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.