Carp study offers options, but solutions still far off

By Gabrielle Rosas

Asian carp are once again at the center of a statewide debate. A privately funded study offers three different plans to stop the spread of Asian carp into Lakes Michigan and Erie—yet all of them require the re-reversal of parts of the Chicago River.

States surrounding the Great Lakes should consider all other options before settling on these plans sponsored by the Great Lakes Commission and several other groups. There are other viable choices that won’t cause deterioration of drinking water quality.

The price of the plans would run from $3.5–$9.5 billion, a steep estimate considering other equally expansive projects have cost considerably less. The Tunnel and Reservoir Plan, a series of interconnected tunnels meant to reduce flooding in the Chicago area, started in 1975 and is slated to be completed in 2029. It has cost approximately $4 billion to date. If Chicago can find an effective, inexpensive way to improve such a vast problem like city flooding, then the city should consider other options.

Although many Americans might be averse to the idea, Asian carp is a tasty meal that helps reduce the carp population, feed the less fortunate and boost profits for private enterprises. As reported by The Chronicle on Oct. 3, 2011, Chef Philippe Parola teamed up with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for the Hunger Now campaign, an initiative that used Asian carp to feed the needy as part of an effort to improve the image of the fish.

“It’s an excellent fish, extremely healthy [and] extremely clean,” Parola told The Chronicle. Exporting carp to other states or countries for sale or donation would further reduce the invasive species. Louisiana State University worked with another nonprofit to send canned carp to Haiti in late 2010. Cities along Lake Michigan could easily benefit from discussing an initiative that encourages the public to eat carp.

The commission’s suggested plans do provide a sustainable way to keep the carp out, but much of the public is not keen on the idea of drinking treated wastewater. Many cities already rely on treated wastewater for irrigation, and a new report from the National Research Council found that health risks associated which treated wastewater consumption are minimal. This means Americans could soon be drinking treated sewage, which has been a tough sell thus far.

The commission’s study provides options that should be considered yet scrutinized. As long as Chicago and other Great Lake states are cautious and exhaust other options, the Asian carp issue could be a thing of the past; but only if we do it right.