Boating Federation backs Asian Carp Barrier Act

Legislation would authorize funding for completion of permanent electronic barrier to keep carp out of Great Lakes

CHICAGO—Great Lakes boaters will soon be able to breathe easily knowing they will no longer face the threat of living and boating among Asian carp, the most pressing threat to the future of the Great Lakes fishery and the safety of boaters.

The Great Lakes Boating Federation salutes Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-13) and their co-sponsors for introducing legislation to direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finally complete construction of the Asian carp electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

The Great Lakes Asian Carp Barrier Act, if enacted, will authorize federal funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete construction of a permanent electronic barrier that will keep these nuisance carp from entering, and taking over, the Great Lakes. A smaller, temporary barrier, which has operated years beyond its designed life span, will also be improved to allow permanent operation. These barriers will resolve the looming ecological and economic catastrophe posed by these destructive invaders.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should have completed these electric barrier projects years ago,” said F. Ned Dikmen, Ph.D., chairman of the Great Lakes Boating Federation and former commissioner on the Great Lakes Commission. “Now, Congress, with this legislation, will at last give the Army Corps its unequivocal marching orders: Get the Asian carp barriers built before it’s too late!”

The act will also authorize federal funds for the barriers’ future operation and maintenance, and will reimburse individual states for funds expended on the construction and operation of the electric barriers.

“While the temporary barrier has benefited the entire region, Illinois has shared the brunt of the construction and operation burden with the Army Corps,” added Michael J. Fischer, deputy director of the Federation. “The Great Lakes Boating Federation is relieved to see that Illinois and other contributing states will be reimbursed by Congress and that the federal government will bear all future construction and operational costs.”

Three different species of Asian carp escaped southern aquaculture facilities during flooding in the early 1990s. These ravenous filter-feeders have since migrated up the Mississippi River and inundated the Illinois River, where they now constitute nine out of every 10 fish. Weighing upward of 40 pounds, the sound of passing boat motors agitates them and causes them to leap out of the water. On numerous occasions, they have injured passing boaters.

“Boaters on the Great Lakes could be seriously injured by these invaders, as we have seen on other bodies of water,” asserted Dikmen. “Asian carp would destroy sport fishing and recreational boating on the Great Lakes, ending a $4 billion industry and a way of life for millions.”

Congress and President George W. Bush must now follow through on the work done by Senator Dick Durbin, Representative Biggert and their dedicated colleagues to ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes construction on the Asian carp barriers to ensure these scourges never damage the Great Lakes.

“While being the primary federal agency charged with overseeing our water infrastructures, too often the Army Corps of Engineers serves the needs of only one industry, commercial navigation,” Dikmen declared. “The Great Lakes Boating Federation hopes passage of the Great Lakes Asian Carp Barrier Act and the electric barrier construction will serve as the dawn of a new era where the Army Corps is more attentive to the infrastructure needs of the nation’s recreational boaters.”

From the Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2007, issue

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