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Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi River system for years after escaping from fish farms and wastewater treatment ponds in the southern U.S.They’re knocking on the door of the Great Lakes, and a number of people are concerned about what could happen if carp become established in the region.In this five-part series, we’ll take a look at what officials are trying to do to keep the fish out, what might happen if carp get in, and why some people want to turn carp into a business opportunity.

The solution to the Asian carp problem? 'Dam it,' say many at public hearing in Ann Arbor

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Brigadier General Margaret Burcham, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, speaks to the audience at a public hearing on Asian carp last night in Ann Arbor.

About a hundred people showed up at a public hearing Tuesday night in Ann Arbor to discuss ways to keep Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes.

One by one, people took to the microphone to tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the only way to stop the Asian carp is to close the man-made waterways connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River basin.

Asian carp have devastated native fish populations in parts of the Mississippi River basin since first being introduced in the southern United States. Some species of Asian carp were brought in to help keep retention ponds clean in aquaculture and wastewater treatment facilities.

So far, it's believed electric barriers have helped keep the carp from passing through a man-made canal into Lake Michigan.

Gildo Tori, with Ducks Unlimited, says the Corps' 25-year timetable to isolate the carp is just too long, and the threat is too close.

“We are at war with Asian carp and many other species,” said Tori.   

The Army Corps of Engineers' Dave Wethington said containing the carp is more complicated than just building a dam.

He says much of Chicago’s infrastructure is based on the current water flow created by the man-made canals.

“Making a significant change like physical separation would be a really big engineering feat,” said Wethington. “Looking at the water quality and the flood risk management issues, those are significant and do require a lot of potential construction depending on where you put your physical barriers.”

Experts believe Asian carp pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes' multi-billion dollar fishing industry.

The Corps is considering eight proposals for dealing with Asian carp threat. There is no specific timetable for choosing one of the proposals.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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