Keep carp out without impacting industry

By Editorial Board

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is under intense scrutiny from six Great Lakes states and various environmental groups that  are urging the closure of major Chicago waterways due to the possible infiltration of Asian carp in Lake Michigan.

The closure of the navigational locks has been avoided because of the strain some Chicagoans and Illinois politicians claim would be placed on the charter cruises, boat tours and cargo shipping. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been experimenting with other techniques to keep the Asian carp out, including adding a third electrical barrier, chemical treatments and catching the fish to utilize them as a food source.

Some surrounding states, including Michigan, Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, are not satisfied by the progress and have tried to force the closure of the locks anyway. Michigan Attorney General Michael Cox claims if the fish entered Lake Michigan, it would affect 800,000 jobs related to the Great Lakes and the $7 billion fishing industry.

Even though the army corps hasn’t closed the locks, they are considering new options and may decide to close the waterways during certain days of the week to deter the fish from entering the lake. Their recommendation is expected this month.

Opening the locks less frequently is still a brash decision and the positive effects are likely to be minimal compared to the effect on the cargo shipping industry and tourism industry this summer, which is estimated to be catastrophic. It isn’t clear if closing the waterways for several days a week will keep the carp from entering.

A bounty could be placed on the fish to encourage commercial fisherman to catch the invasive species and create a fishing frenzy that would help eliminate the Asian carp population.

The fish could be sold at stores, and because there will be an abundance of carp, the extra meat could be given to shelters or food depositories.

To eliminate the Asian carp threat without damaging the economy, other precautions should be taken before making a decision to close the locks. Doing so for several days a week is an extreme gesture. Without knowing whether this option would even be successful, Chicagoans may be impacted, but not the invasive carp.