Carp DNA found in Lake Michigan; governors call for White House summitDETROIT — Federal officials tried Tuesday to downplay DNA results that show leaping Asian carp may have reached Lake Michigan, and said they are doing everything possible to prevent a larger carp invasion.
By: By Tina Lam, Detroit Free Press, Superior Telegram
DETROIT — Federal officials tried Tuesday to downplay DNA results that show leaping Asian carp may have reached Lake Michigan, and said they are doing everything possible to prevent a larger carp invasion.
“We don’t know where the fish are,” said Maj. Gen. John Peabody, commander of the Great Lakes and Ohio River district of the Army Corps of Engineers, which ordered the DNA testing. “The DNA shows us where they may be.”
Asked how many live carp would have to be found before federal agencies would change their current plans on dealing with the invasive species, Charles Wooley, deputy regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said several hundred.
“We would have to be talking about a couple hundred fish that would start to indicate that reproduction could occur,” he said.
Peabody said federal agencies in charge of the canal and locks around Lake Michigan plan netting and electrofishing in areas with positive DNA results.
He said that the DNA testing methodology is new and has not been scientifically validated.
Lindsay Chadderton, a member of the University of Notre Dame team doing the DNA testing, said the Environmental Protection Agency did its own four-day audit in December of the testing process and was satisfied. He noted that federal officials also used the team’s earlier DNA testing as the basis for a decision to conduct a massive fish kill in December near an electric barrier designed to keep carp out of the lakes.
Michigan officials pushed Tuesday for speedier and stronger action, especially in the hours after the Supreme Court refused to issue an injunction shutting Chicago-area locks to stop carp from infested waters from moving farther. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm called for an immediate White House summit to discuss the increasing Asian carp threat.
“It is disappointing that the Supreme Court declined to aid in our fight against these aquatic invaders, so we now ask the White House to work with us in finding a solution before it is too late,” the governor said.
The court has not yet decided whether to take up a lawsuit filed in December by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox asking for broader relief, including the possibility of closing the Chicago canal. Briefs are due Feb. 19 in that lawsuit.
The newest DNA results are frightening, Cox said on Tuesday.
“Michigan residents are outraged that President (Barack) Obama’s administration and Illinois officials refuse to take immediate action despite continued and escalating evidence of an immediate threat,” he said.
Cox said that the announcement of the DNA results came too late for the Supreme Court’s consideration. The Army Corps of Engineers said it got the results Friday, but didn’t announce them until Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Republican from Harrison Township, said a subcommittee she sits on will hold a hearing on Asian carp efforts on Feb. 9.
U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers, a Republican from Grand Rapids, said in a statement he was disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“This invasive species is among the biggest threats to the lakes we have ever seen, and it threatens to devastate the lake ecosystem and the economy of the region,” he said.
Despite results over the past six months that show a continued march of carp toward the Great Lakes, no live Asian carp have been found beyond the electric barrier on the Chicago shipping canal. Federal officials said Tuesday that fact makes it hard to move more quickly.
The lone Asian carp found near Chicago was a bighead that floated on the surface during a massive poisoning of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in December, below the electric barrier. An expert on Asian carp said most poisoned carp likely sank to the bottom of the canal.
Peabody said there is no simple answer to the carp problem. The Corps’ other plans include studies on how to make the electric barrier more effective, how to plug bypasses in the carp-infested waters that could send carp past the electric barrier during floods, and whether to permanently separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River.
But those reports are not due for months, and some won’t be done until the end of this year. It could take years to wall off the shipping canal from Lake Michigan, even if that’s what the Corps’ report recommends.
Noah Hall, a law professor at Wayne State University and expert on Great Lakes law, said the ball is now in federal hands. The federal government opposed Michigan’s request in the Supreme Court, saying closing locks is unnecessary and could harm barge owners and Chicago.
In response to the decision, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm called for an immediate summit between Great Lakes governors and senior White House officials to address the threat of Asian carp and other invasive species to the Great Lakes ecosystem and regional economy.
“We must act quickly to protect the Great Lakes, our region’s greatest natural resource, against the devastating threat of Asian carp,” Doyle said in a prepared statement. “The Great Lakes are vital to our region’s future and the Army Corps of Engineers must immediately implement emergency measures to protect the Great Lakes against Asian carp. The Great Lakes grow industries and draw businesses to this region. They are essential to transportation and shipping, they drive recreation and tourism and they sustain cities.”
The order denying the motion for a preliminary injunction does not end this case, according to Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
“The underlying petition remains pending, and I will continue to pursue legal remedies to stop Asian carp species from entering Lake Michigan and protect Wisconsin’s interests,” he said.
“If a couple years from now Asian carp are in the lakes, destroying our sports fishery, it’s going to be very clear who we have to thank or blame — the federal government,” Hall said.
Copyright (c) 2010, Detroit Free Press/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
The Superior Telegram contributed to this report