It’s been a few years now since we’ve witnessed the rise of the Asian carp, an invasive species brought to the US decades ago for commercial aquaculture and it’s since decimated the ecosystem of the Mississippi River. A giant predator with a voracious appetite, it has obliterated any competitor that’s stood in its way and has established itself as the dominant species in the big Muddy from Minneapolis to New Orleans.
Thus far, we’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing, but nothing really in terms of practical plans for keeping the devil fish out. A privately funded study was recently released, containing three options to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes. That’s the good news. The bad news is that all three options are expensive (the price ranges anywhere from three to ten billion dollars) and each plan would take, at a minimum, several years to a full decade to complete.
So, while we have a plan, I have some ideas to get this enacted. The individual Great Lakes states aren’t going to be able to come up with any of the cash themselves to fund the barriers, so I would suggest spreading a larger net, so to speak. Bring in the Canadians, along with leaders from other states such as New York, whose waterways would also eventually be infested were the carp to break through to Lake Michigan. Bringing in as many stakeholders as possible to bring the plans to fruition is vital to getting this thing funded. That the President is from Chicago also doesn’t hurt its chances, and we’d have a valuable ally there.
This is an expensive project in an age of austerity. Getting it funded is going to be the hardest part. But not to act would be far, far more expensive than declining to spend a few billion dollars now. If the carp gets into the Great Lakes, there’s no getting them out, and they would permanently and irreparably damage one of our country’s best interests, both ecologically, and economically.