While Ohio’s junior senator Rob Portman is heralding the August 7th release of theArmy Corps of Engineers’ draft report to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, the 488-page document is far from the last word on the subject.
Indeed, the “Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study – Brandon Road Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Statement – Will County Illinois” is long in name though short on any promise to keep three species of invasive Asian carp species now residing in the Mississippi Watershed from crossing the line into the Great Lakes.
The stakes are high, though. Portman notes that the Great Lakes support a $7 billion fishing industry and Lake Erie contributes more than $10 billion to Ohio’s tourism industry.
“Both of which would be jeopardized if Asian carp were allowed into the Great Lakes,” Portman says.
And the Corps’ recreational economic impact figures for the Great Lakes as a whole are even greater: “...it is estimated that the annual economic contribution of recreational fishing in and around the (Great Lakes Basin) is approximately $13.3 billion,” the Corps report says.
Even so, the Corps is less certain regarding what an Asian carp invasion may – or may not mean – to the vast Great Lakes eco-system. The report notes in extensive detail the watershed’s biological complexity that embraces about 302,000 square miles and includes more than 5,000 tributaries.
“Estimates of ecosystem changes were only available for Lake Erie’s biomass, and are varied and uncertain,” notes the Corps in its guardedly worded report.
Still, the Corps’ draft document – and draft is the operative word even Portman acknowledges – does detail six potential options to deal with the matter.
These six possible choices include – 1) No new action (thus, no action); 2) non-structural action (such as netting and strategic positioning of boat ramps); 3) Technical alternative involving electrical barriers; 4) Technical alternative involving “complex noise” systems; 5) Technical alternatives involving both electrical and complex noise systems; 6) Canal lock closure.
However, the Corps says in the report that it cannot offer any guarantees with any of the currently offered options.
“The purpose of this study is to evaluate structural and nonstructural options and technologies near the Brandon Road Lock and Dam site to prevent the upstream transfer of ANS (Asian carp) from the Mississippi River Basin into the Great Lakes Basin, while minimizing impacts on existing waterway uses and users.
“For this study, ‘prevent’ means the reduction of risk to the maximum extent possible, because it may not be technologically feasible to achieve an absolute solution,” the report says up front on page 21.
Portman – and fellow elected federal legislators from other Great Lakes states – are not about to give up or take “no” for an answer. Above all, the officials say, the need is very real in order to
“My colleagues and I have urged the Corps to release this plan so that there is no delay in implementing measures to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp,” Portman said. “It is important that the Corps remain on schedule to finalize the plan by January of 2019, and I look forward to working with stakeholders and the Corps to do just that.”
The Corp is accepting comments on the draft report through the GLMRIS website, mail, and hand-delivery. Comments will be accepted through September 21, 2017.
Mailed and hand delivered comments can be sent to: US Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District
231 S. LaSalle St. Suite 1500, ATTN: GLMRIS – Brandon Road Comments Chicago, IL 6060.
A yet-to-be-determined series of public meetings around the Great Lakes is scheduled also. Dates, times, and locations will be announced, the Corps says.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn