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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.

Experts say it's time to plan for the worst when it comes to Asian carp

Asian Carp
Kate Gardiner
Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK
The USGS says it could take decades to deal with Asian carp threat. State officials say that's too long to wait.

State lawmakers say they’re concerned about the time and expense of plans to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. And some experts say it’s time to plan for the worst.

State invasive species experts say Michigan does not have the luxury of waiting for a final plan to ensure Asian carp don’t infest the Great Lakes and upset the food chain. 

“We’re talking about things in the interim that lower the risk, may not be the ultimate solution, but we have to be diligent every day in dealing with this issue,” said Jon Allan, who directs the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes.

Allan testified at a hearing on an Army Corps of Engineers study of the costs and options to deal with the Asian carp, and other invasive species. A permanent fix could take 25 years and cost billions of dollars. In the meantime, the state Department of Natural Resources says another species of Asian carp – the black carp – is moving up the Mississippi River system toward Lake Michigan.

“So they are another carp that will do well in the Great Lakes,” said Department of Natural Resources biologist Tammy Newcomb. “They will eat someplace else in the food chain, so yet another one that’s creeping its way up the waterway. So there’s your imminent threat that we see.”

But officials with the Army Corps of Engineers say there are simply no quick solutions.

“What impacts would result from the implementation of these alternatives, and how long does it actually take to build tunnels, to build reservoirs, and to build these infrastructures?” said Lauren Fleer.

The state’s invasive species chief says Michigan needs to have a short-term strategy for dealing with the Asian carp threat, as well as a crisis management plan.

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