Archive for the ‘Invasive Asian carp’ Category

Asian Carp Update, Part I: New eDNA Evidence

May 31, 2011

After a long blogging hiatus, I’m jumping back in after being inspired by yesterday’s ESPN episode on Asian carp; what a great piece!

The ESPN Outside the Lines piece went right to where the worst impacts of the carp would be: Lake Erie.  It included interviews of a bunch of charter boat captains, including our longtime partner Rick Unger. The show appears to be a rebroadcast from November of last year.

Except for the ESPN piece, the news coverage on Asian carp has been quiet. That quiet is misleading, because there’s an awful lot happening, too much to put into a single post:

  • the most recent sampling data
  • short-term actions,
  • long-term actions,
  • threats from outside the Chicago canal system, and more.

Today I’ll start with an update on Asian carp sampling data, and cover the other topics in the weeks to come.

If you’ve been following the media (or lack of it), you’d think that all is well: that is, that there is no new evidence of Asian carp above the electric fence. Unfortunately, that’s not true.

The most recent eDNA evidence of Asian carp in the Chicago canal system from the last three months of 2010 documents the presence of Asian carp beyond the barrier on multiple occasions: 7 silver carps hits and 2 bighead carp positives. In addition, 6 samples were positive for silver and bighead carp in the DesPlaines River north and east of the electric fence in the canal. If the Des Plaines floods into the Chicago canals (and with the recent construction of berms and fences between the two waterbodies, it shouldn’t), the flooding would occur above the electric fence. The Corps’ eDNA surveillance map  identifies where the samples were taken.

Click for a full size pdf of the sampling map:

eDNA Results Map

So why isn’t the evidence of Asian carp beyond the barrier all over the news?  We’re looking at 15 Asian carp hits above the electric fence in 3 months. The Asian carp eDNA is a clear indication that the electric fence is not 100 percent effective and that Asian carp are swimming freely in the Chicago canals with an open path the Lake Michigan just a few miles away.

A year ago, far less evidence of Asian carp triggered a crisis and made headlines all around the region, but not this time.

I can think of three reasons the current evidence of Asian carp beyond the electric fence is not getting the press it deserves, none of which makes these findings any less important:

  1. The Asian carp issue is suffering from media fatigue; the media are tired of covering it. Sorry, I don’t buy it. I think the media will cover any part of this issue that seems like a new development (and even some that don’t). Witness the ESPN story yesterday. I think it’s less media fatigue, and more…
  2. The Corps’ release of the samples is so slow that by the time the data are public, they’re no longer news. Even these most recent data cover the period from October-December, 2010. Why can’t the Corps get this information online faster? The agency’s delays make this crisis seem less urgent, when it most certainly is not.
  3. The Chicago shipping industry and many of the government agencies have really downplayed the eDNA results. When the agencies release the most recent monitoring data on Asian carp, they don’t start with the eDNA tests that indicate the presence of the carp. Instead they start with other sampling techniques – netting, commercial fishing, electrofishing – that scientists uniformly agree would not be expected to find Asian carp in the Chicago canal system.  So it’s no surprise that they don’t find the carp through those methods.

    Rarely do the agency reports acknowledge eDNA samples that show the presence of Asian carp, and if they do, it’s usually in a way that minimizes the importance of those samples (so from October to December, they point out that there were 1330 samples processed, and 15 samples, or 1 percent, showed evidence of Asian carp).

    I agree it makes sense to put the positive DNA hits in a larger context to demonstrate that Asian carp do not yet appear to be present in breeding populations in the Chicago Area Waterway System.

    But, you can only put the DNA evidence in context if you first reveal and discuss the fact that the DNA evidence again and again shows that there are Asian carp past the electric fence. And when you put it in that context, the problem is as urgent as ever. The lack of breeding population only means that we actually have time to fix the problem before it’s too late. We still have hope.

That’s it for this week. Next time I’ll talk about short-term actions to prevent Asian carp in the Great Lakes and what we’re seeing there.


Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled ….. Invasive Species?

April 11, 2011

Yesterday, the Sunday New York Times printed my letter responding to a guest editorial that actually praised invasions by non-native species. My letter in the times was a shorter version of a longer piece that’s below (thanks to GLU’s Jen Nalbone for some great edits!). Also, check out the other letters that ran in response to the guest editorial.

Here’s my original piece:

For a minute, I thought Hugh Raffles’ New York Times op ed, “Mother Nature’s Melting Pot” was a bit of a satire – perhaps a modern adaptation of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” After all, Raffles compares the anti-immigration fervor with the attempts to stop invasive, “alien” species from colonizing native habitats in the U.S. But as I read, I got the sinking feeling that Rafferty is serious. He argues, human diversity is good; the iconic “melting pot” has made the United States what it is today. He seems to ignore that he’s talking about diversity among a single species, humans. Would he be as positive about welcoming species into the U.S. that eat humans? Or that kill us through disease? Because that’s what harmful invasive species often do to native species. Shall we open our arms, say, to SARS or the Asian flu? After all, those organisms are just yearning to be free.

What Raffles seems to forget is that our society does welcome many invasive species, like ornamental plants and shrubs, soybeans, and housecats. What we try to stop (or once they are here, control or eradicate) are the few non-native species that turn out to be invasive, or harmful to humans and the habitats we rely on.  Just as we use vaccines, screening and antibiotics to stop diseases that hurt us, so do we use similar techniques to stop the bad invasive species.

And there are bad ones – species that can hurt humans, and species that actually reduce the biological diversity in an ecosystem. Living in the Great Lakes, we see evidence of that on a daily basis. One of them is zebra mussels, which coat the bottom of the Great Lakes and many beaches with six-inch thick mats of tiny, sharp shells. Raffles says that zebra mussels have had a significant positive effect on the Great Lakes because they make filter the water, making it clearer and increasing populations of fish and plants. Problem is, that’s just flat out wrong. Due to zebra mussels and their incredible ability to filter out microscopic organisms, there’s no food left in the water column of vast sections of the Great Lakes and fish populations have crashed. A new article in Environmental Science  and Technology this month documents that fish biomass in two Great Lakes has declined by 95% in the past 15 years, primarily due to zebra mussels and their cousins, the invasive quagga mussels. And according to scientists, because zebra and quagga mussels spit out toxic algae as they consume virtually all the rest, they are the primary culprits in causing harmful algae blooms in the Great Lakes – thick pea-green soup that can poison drinking water and lead to botulism outbreaks.

And that’s only one harmful invasive species. How about viral hemmorhagic septicemia (VHS), the Ebola of fish that causes them to bleed out and die? Shall we roll out the welcome mat for that one?

Biology doesn’t say one species is bad and another is good (although I would argue that an invasive species that wipes out all or many of the other species in an ecosystem is biologically bad). But people value some things above others… including our own survival and prosperity. Call me people-ist, but I prefer native species that don’t hurt me or kill me. So no more harmful invasive species, please!

Is this the Asian carp action plan we’ve been waiting for?

May 13, 2010

Last week, the federal and state and federal agencies constituting the Asian carp task force released what looked like an action plan to attack Asian carp.

The agencies’ plan is to take lethal measures to kill Asian carp wherever eDNA testing indicates those carp are present – most recently, near the O’Brien Lock and Dam and in the North Shore Channel. They will use rotenone to poison the fish in a two-mile stretch near the O’Brien section, and they will use electroshocking and netting to kill the fish in a narrow section of the North Shore Channel. In both locations, they will close the locks for several days to increase the efficiency of the response actions.

Attacking the Asian carp wherever the evidence says they are present sounds like progress to me. It sounds like the kind of action plan we asked for three months ago.

It is also a positive sign that the agencies are acknowledging by their actions that DNA evidence is a good indicator of where carp are. The agencies are using the DNA hits to determine where to attack the carp.

But while these specific measures are good ones, it is now unclear whether these actions actually part of a comprehensive plan.

Unfortunately, the agencies’ press release (pdf) makes what they are proposing sound like more monitoring and not like a new response plan. And after a conversation with agency staff, it’s clear to me that their plan is being spun as monitoring: the agencies are planning on poisoning fish to see if Asian carp are present, not killing fish because the evidence already indicates that Asian carp are present.

And that difference is important; it will make a real difference on the ground. If agencies’ activities are just monitoring, then there is no way of knowing whether new evidence of Asian carp will trigger a killing response or some form of monitoring that isn’t lethal to carp.

So if this is the agencies’ new action plan, they should tell us. And if this is not their action plan, then they should come up with one fast. It’s been over six months and the Asian carp continue to move faster than the government.

Houston, we have a solution

April 14, 2010

I spent much of last week at NWF’s annual meeting in Houston, Texas, with affiliated organizations from 46 different states and Washington, D.C. While national issues like climate change took up most of the agenda, guess what caused the biggest stir? That’s right, Asian carp.

Everybody had heard about these huge flying fish, they knew the crisis facing the Great Lakes, and they wanted to know how to help.

They found a way. Several of our affiliates, led by Illinois’ Prairie Rivers Network and NWF Board member Clark Bullard (also from Illinois), proposed a resolution calling for hydrological separation of the Mississippi River system and the Great Lakes basin, to be done as rapidly as possible. That resolution went through committee last week and was voted on by the all of the NWF affiliates.

The result? Unanimous approval.

Check out this television news segment and article from Chicago’s Fox News on NWF’s carp resolution.


Wildlife Federation Wants Drastic Anti-Carp Measures

Chicago – The National Wildlife Federation is calling for drastic steps to protect the Great Lakes from Asian Carp. The plan, approved unanimously at the federation’s national meeting in Houston, calls for setting up a barrier to separate Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River Basin.

The plan would once again reverse the flow of the Chicago River so it would empty into Lake Michigan.

The barrier could be set up out near Romeoville or Joliet, according to Clark Bullard, one of the Illinois representatives. Electric barriers now in place in the shipping canal currently serve as the barrier to keep the carp from migrating into Lake Michigan.

Read the rest of the story

Too quiet on the Asian carp front

April 9, 2010

The cameras have stopped rolling. The national newspapers have stopped calling. The editorials have stopped opining.

But the Asian carp haven’t gone away.

In any long-term environmental crisis, this is the most dangerous time — after the initial rush of concern passes and the media begin looking at other stories. The profile of the issue declines, and so does the political will to address it.

We can’t let that happen here, but that trend certainly is a risk for the Great Lakes. The last major story on Asian carp is that they were NOT found beyond the electric barrier after 6 weeks of fishing and sampling by the Illinois DNR and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. That’s not exactly a surprise, as most experts predicted that the odds of finding a live or dead fish in that stretch of the canals were quite low. But that story has the potential to take the pressure off the Corps and the other agencies who are supposed to be taking action quickly but haven’t:

  • The Corps had a deadline of “early March 2010” to develop a “modified lock operations” plan to reduce the chances of carp movement through the canals. That plan will determine the short-term actions needed to stop the carp right away, while a permanent solution is found. But the deadline for the plan has come and gone. When will we see the plan, and when will it go into effect?
  • The permanent solutions will be guided by a feasibility study on ecological separation of the Mississippi River system and the Great Lakes that the Corps is supposed to be undertaking right now. There’s broad agreement that study needs to be completed within a year; the Corps says it needs two years, in part to get sufficient guidance from outside experts and the public. But so far, there’s been no effort by the Corps to line up that guidance or begin the study. When will the Corps get moving?

So far, the Asian carp have moved much faster than the government’s response to them…and that was when there was enormous media pressure for action.  As the media pressure lessens, the public needs to step in. The millions of members of our organizations, the cities, the tribes, the states, we all have to push for fast action. The Corps should understand: the carp aren’t going away, and neither are we.

Successful Great Lakes Day and Carp Hearing on the Hill

February 26, 2010

I’m just back from a full week in Washington, D.C., where the Healing Our Waters Coalition and the Great Lakes Commission held an awesomely successful Great Lakes Day. Over 200 leaders descended on the Capitol, visiting over 85 House and Senate offices and talking to key members of the Administration.

Great Lakes director Cam Davis keynoted the HOW and GLC conference, and the groups gave special recognition awards to Senator George Voinovich and Congressman Vern Ehlers. For more details on this event, check out Jeff Alexander’s post on the Healing Our Waters blog.

I also had the chance to testify yesterday before Senator Stabenow’s subcommittee on Asian carp and the government’s plans to combat a Great Lakes Asian carp invasion. You can read my full testimony here. There were eight of us on two panels, a wide variety of witnesses from federal agencies, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Dr. John Taylor (who authored the best study to date on the real costs of lock closure), Michigan Office of Great Lakes Director Ken DeBeaussaert, and Illinois DNR Director Mark Miller. I saw some real progress at the hearing. Almost all the witnesses, including Illinois’ Mark Miller, favored ecological separation as a permanent solution and wanted to get there as soon as possible. The witnesses also all recognized that there is no short-term emergency measure that can completely safeguard the lakes and so all the measures need to be used together. There was disagreement over the frequency and scale of some of the measures (particularly lock closures), but there was more emphasis on where there was consensus for moving forward.

The big development that helped bring everyone together was the Great Lakes Commission’s adoption of a resolution endorsing the concept of ecological separation as the best way of protecting the Great Lakes from Asian carp. This was so important because it included support from Illinois; it really made all the Senators sit up and take notice.

The next milestone (at least, the next one we can anticipate) is the Corps’ release of a modified lock operations plan, due out in the next week or two. Here’s hoping that the new plan is a channel by channel, lock by lock strategy on how to stop the movement of the invasive carp in the short run, and not another concept document.

The Asian Carp Public Meetings

February 19, 2010

Over the past week, I was able to attend the two public meetings on the agencies’ Asian carp strategy “framework,” one in Chicago and one in Ypsilanti, MI. You’d think they’d be very different, with an overwhelming resistance to changing any navigation in Chicago and a universal call for lock closure and separation in Ypsi, but actually both had a good diversity of views. I’m sure it helped that the Chicago boating community (particularly the passenger and tourist boats) chartered a bus and went to the Ypsi hearings. In fact, the radio reports about the Ypsi hearings said the Chicago boaters dominated, but really it was pretty even (the Chicago folks sounded louder because they all spoke early in the meeting).

So here are my takeaways from these meetings:

  • The Chicago shipping and passenger boating industry was united in opposition to any temporary or permanent closure of the locks, believing it would immediately put them out of business. Most seem to oppose permanent hydrological separation of the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan basins, but that appeared to be based on the assumption that such separation would mean lock closure. The Chicago industry folks also said they were all committed to keeping Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. Some said the threat wasn’t so great because they questioned the eDNA evidence, but most said they would support other measures. Many pointed out that lock closure wouldn’t stop Asian carp because the locks leak and they don’t cover 2 of the 5 outlets to Lake Michigan.
  • Largely because of the focus by the Chicago boating and shipping industry, the meetings emphasized lock closure way too much. There wasn’t enough discussion of the larger plan for short-term measures or how lock closure or modification might fit into that strategy. What was lost was the concept that no single measure is effective by itself. The electric fence is certainly not 100 percent effective. Nor is poisoning, or electrofishing, or commercial fishing, or lock closure. The real issue is how to put all those measures together to minimize movement of Asian carp to Lake Michigan.
  • The focus on lock closure also led to confusion about the long-term goal of ecological separation – that is, stopping the movement of live organisms between the Mississippi River system and Lake Michigan. Many of the Chicago industry folks equated such separation with lock closure, when there are many other options. You can separate the systems at other points in the canal system that would leave all the locks open (and could actually enhance passenger boat traffic and tourism). That’s what the Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to be exploring in their Interbasin Feasibility Study.
  • The Corps is the key decisionmaker here, and I’m not sure they’re equipped to make good decisions. All the other agencies have roles in the Asian carp task force, but when it comes to long-term separation, canal modification, and lock modification and/or closure, it’s up to the Corps. In Ypsilanti, the Corp’s chief, Assistant Secretary to the Army Jo Ellen Darcy, repeatedly said the Corps would “balance all interests” in making its decision. “Balancing” is not a good standard for an agency whose historic mission is navigation and whose record overwhelmingly favors commerce over ecological protection. The Corps needs a new mission: in order to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp, stop the movement of live organisms between Mississippi River system and Lake Michigan. That should be their priority.
  • I thought these meetings had a silver lining. As united and passionate as the Chicago shipping and boating community was against lock closure or changes in operations, they were respectful and polite to speakers who disagreed with them. That’s very promising. I’ve been at meetings before where a group of speakers were worried they’d lose their jobs, and usually the hostility to speakers with other points of view is palpable. Maybe because the Chicago industry really does seem committed to stopping the advance of Asian carp, that hostility was absent, and they sometimes even applauded folks who disagreed with them.

What this tells me is that there’s still hope for the Great Lakes community to move forward together on stopping Asian carp. Despite differences in approach and strategy, protecting the Great Lakes is a goal that continues to unite us all. From a purely technical standpoint, stopping the invasive carp is a really tough problem. We’ll need that unity if we hope to succeed.

The new Asian carp strategy

February 12, 2010

Today (February 12) my colleagues and I will be doing a lot of talking about Asian carp, first at a news conference and then at a public meeting in the federal courthouse in Chicago. Here is a preview of what we will be saying.

The occasion? Earlier this week the feds released a new plan, called the Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework (not a strategy, but the framework of a strategy??), and they’ve asked for comments.  I’ve copied what I’m saying at the news conference and the meeting below.

Here are my talking points on the new strategy / “framework:”

The Framework certainly represents progress, but it has major gaps that undermine its effectiveness.

The positive aspects of the Framework include:

  • The Framework and the Corps have done a good job addressing one of the central risks to stopping the establishment of carp breeding populations: flooding. The plan to erect barriers between the DesPlaines River and the Chicago canals is essential.
  • Expanded eDNA monitoring and equally important, enhanced capacity to analyze eDNA samples, are improvements.
  • Most importantly, the Framework includes all the measures needed for Asian Carp control: poisoning, electrofishing, and temporary lock closures. This is the first time that closures of the O’Brien, Chicago River, and Wilmette Locks have been included as action measures in a federal plan.
  • There clearly is a sense of urgency reflected in the document.

But the Framework has some major gaps that make us question its effectiveness in protecting the Great Lakes from Asian carp:

  • There is not enough detail on how or when the short term measures will be used together to impede the movement of Asian carp. These measures have to be used in sequence at specific locations over specific time frames to be effective. That information is not in the Framework, and until we see it, we cannot tell whether the Framework will work even in the short term. The Framework now is like a list of ingredients without a recipe. Unless you combine the ingredients in the right proportions and sequence, you’ll have a disastrous meal. We can’t afford that. What we need is a true contingency plan that has triggers and timelines and combines and sequences the use of all of these measures. We need the Framework to combine the ingredients into a recipe.
  • Although the short-term actions are expensive, difficult to implement, and not 100 percent effective, the Framework proposes no long term solution – only a study of long term solutions, and a study that takes years to complete. Ecological separation of the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan is the clear long-term solution but the Framework never commits to ecological separation, it only commits that the Army Corps of Engineers will study it. Without a long-term solution, the short term measures are like a bridge to nowhere.
  • The agencies are taking too long to put this together. The agencies have had 3 months to develop contingency plans with triggers and timetables and a path to a long term solution. After all that time, what we get is this incomplete Framework, and promise of more details later. We look forward to seeing those details and securing that critical commitment. We just hope it won’t be too late.

More hope in stopping Asian carp

February 5, 2010

After months of unremitting bad news, for the second week in a row we saw signs of progress in addressing the Asian carp disaster. This week is marked by a return to rational discussion of Asian carp problems and solutions. Three developments offer hope that the White House carp summit next week may produce real results:

  1. The federal and state agencies now known as the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (they used to be the Rapid Response Team) this week came out with a seven-page document providing a conceptual outline of possible integrated emergency response measures to stop further movement of the carp. What’s significant is that this document is both comprehensive  (it includes multiple actions, including temporary lock closures) and integrated (it describes how multiple measures can be deployed together and in sequence to stop further movement of the invasive carp). This is not a final plan, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. Of course, we still have to see which of the scenarios they actually choose…
  2. The agencies will release a more detailed plan of action this Monday, February 8, just in advance of the Asian carp White House summit. We have hopes that the plan will follow and expand on the conceptual plan published this week by the agencies.
  3. Some real economists have finally weighed in on the actual costs of closing the Chicago navigational locks. As part Michigan’s supplemental filing with the U.S. Supreme Court this week (yes, Michigan has filed a supplemental motion re-petitioning for emergency lock closure as a result of the eDNA evidence of Asian carp in Calumet Harbor),  it submitted a study by Dr. John Roach and James Taylor on the costs of shutting the O’Brien and Chicago locks to barge traffic. You might recall that the Corps and the shipping industry claimed that the economies of Chicago and the region would be devastated even by a short term closure, that Chicago could not handle the additional truck and rail traffic that would result, that jobs would be lost, and that it would cost the region over $190 million annually. The Roach and Taylor study demolishes the Corps’ claims with real economic analysis. Their conclusions include:

“a. Only approximately seven million tons of cargo per year would be affected and some of this would incur relatively minor inconvenience .

b. That affected volume represents less than one percent of all the freight traffic in the Chicago Region and only thirty percent of the total Port of Chicago traffic.

c. The affected barge traffic is the equivalent of two daily loaded rail unit trains in a region that has approximately 500 daily freight trains.

d.Truck traffic in Chicago would increase less than 1/10 of one percent.

e. Most of the affected cargo would continue to move on the inland waterway system, through the Lockport Locks, but would have to stop a few miles short of its former destination.

i. Transportation and handling costs would increase by less than $70 million annually in a Chicago metropolitan area economy of $521 billion.

j. There would be more cargo-related jobs, not less, associated with closures at the O’Brien and Chicago Locks. There likely would be some loss of barge jobs, but these would be more than replaced by truck, rail, and pipeline jobs needed for transload and transfer movements of the affected cargo. That is why there would be additional transportation costs.

o. In sum, waterway closure at the Chicago and O’Brien Locks would have a localized impact on already declining commercial cargo traffic that comprises only a tiny fraction of economic activity in the metropolitan Chicago area. The conservatively estimated additional transportation and logistical costs of shifting a portion of the existing barge traffic to other modes of transportation along a small portion of its route is far less than that suggested by the Corps and Illinois, and is orders of magnitude less than the estimated economic impact of sport and commercial fishing in the Great Lakes.

p. The claim that “even a temporary closure of the locks will devastate the local economy and Illinois’ role in the regional,national and global economy…” (Ill. Opposition p. 10 and Ill. App.50a) cannot reasonably be supported.”

Understanding the real costs of each of the options, including temporary lock closures, means there can be less posturing and more problem-solving at the summit. That’s essential for the health of the Great Lakes.

A little progress…

January 29, 2010

For the first time in months, a week has gone by without any bad news on Asian carp. OK, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of government action, but it sure beats the weekly, and sometimes daily, diet of bad news we’ve seen since November.

And there has been some positive movement. The Administration set a date, February 8, for a White House summit on Asian carp. Although the summit involves only the Administration and the governors, the White House is making further plans for a much broader public meeting that will involve many stakeholders. There are no guarantees about either process, but they offer another path (in addition to litigation) for confronting the carp, and we need every possible option on the table.

The agencies this week also seem to have made some progress. First, they’ve stopped debating whether Asian carp are present where the eDNA says they are. The agencies now acknowledge that the odds are very high that the carp are present at the positive eDNA sampling locations. This admission is important because it means they recognize the problem, and as any 12-step program will tell you, that’s the first step toward recovery.

The agencies also are stepping up their efforts to characterize the Chicago canal and river system through additional monitoring via eDNA sampling, netting, and electroshocking, another important step in determining how bad the problem is and where the best places are to attack it.

Most significantly, the agency scientists believe that the Asian and silver carp currently in the Chicago waterway system will not be able to reproduce while in that system because they need far longer uninterrupted stretches of water than the canals can provide. Other scientists I’ve talked to have said the same thing. That’s critically important because it means that even with a few carp in the canals beyond the electric fence, we still have time to stop the advance of the monster carp before they achieve breeding populations in Lake Michigan.

My concern is that progress is slow and the invasive carp are not — they leap over, through and beyond the incremental measures we take. Addressing a crisis is different than tackling many of the slower-moving problems we face in the Great Lakes. Cleaning up a toxic hotspot can take decades; building a new sewer system takes years. The Asian carp problem is more like the outbreak of epidemic: we have weeks, and maybe days, to develop a plan and implement it.

So these small measures of good news do nothing to ease the urgency for action. Most importantly, the agencies must find a way to get ahead of the carp. Almost all the emergency actions taken to date have been reactive: carp eDNA show up somewhere new, and the agencies scramble to respond.  That process has created confusion and mistrust. The agencies need to think ahead. They need a contingency plan that defines the triggers for action and then the actions that will be taken if those triggers occur. The agencies have informed us they are working on that plan…. but that plan should have been in place at least two months ago, if not earlier.

And yes, the contingency plan should consider all actions, including closing the navigational locks. It’s inconceivable to me that the lock closure option has never really been explored. To my knowledge (and I’ve asked repeatedly), nobody in government has even looked at transportation alternatives to the canals in moving cargo from Lake Michigan into Chicago, what the extra costs of those alternatives might be, and how those costs could be defrayed. Call me crazy, but I have a sneaking suspicion that federal money could be available to help fund those alternatives. Has anybody even checked?

So let’s look back on this week with relief and a little hope. But lets look forward with the same urgency and determination that’s we’ve needed since the monster carp crisis began.