Asian Carp & the Great Lakes

Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi River system for years after escaping from fish farms and wastewater treatment ponds in the southern U.S.

They’re knocking on the door of the Great Lakes, and a number of people are concerned about what could happen if carp become established in the region.

In this five-part series, we’ll take a look at what officials are trying to do to keep the fish out, what might happen if carp get in, and why some people want to turn carp into a business opportunity.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is figuring out new ways to try to block two species of Asian carp — bighead and silver — from getting into Lake Michigan. The Corps also wants to block other aquatic nonnative species from getting into the Lakes from the Mississippi River system.

They’re considering whether to put in new barriers near the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the Des Plaines River near Chicago. The site is about five miles downstream from a system of electric barriers in the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. Those barriers are essentially the last line of defense against Asian carp in the Chicago area.

“This may be a perfect site to implement a range of different kinds of technologies," says Dave Wethington, a project manager with the Army Corps in Chicago.

He says the Corps could put in barriers that block fish passage into the lock and dam, or more electric barriers. It could also put in special water guns that use pressure waves to deter carp.

Asian Carp
Kate.Gardner / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss GOP groups pulling their ads supporting Terri Lynn Land, Asian carp DNA found in the Kalamazoo River, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear cases from lower courts banning gay marriage.


  First on Stateside, we take a look at the "Grand Bargain" in Detroit. The state has taken a big step closer to putting money down to help Detroit. 

JPMorgan Chase is investing $100 million in Detroit's future, but what does that mean for the city, and what are JPMorgan's motives?

Only 28% of you said that Michigan is the best possible state to live in, according to a Gallup Poll. So Michigan kicked off the Why I Stay project, to find out exactly why you are still in Michigan. Michigan Radio's Mark Brush joined us.

Then, a meteor shower is headed our way Friday night, so it's time to dust off those binoculars and look to the sky. 

Michigan's expansion on Medicaid – Healthy Michigan – is on track for enrollee sign-up. 

Last, we learn about a fish that has a notoriously bad reputation: the Asian carp.

*Listen to the full episode above. 

Asian Carp
Kate.Gardner / Flickr

When you hear the words "Asian carp," chances are that nothing good will come to mind.

We know they're big, ugly, lightning-fast, voracious eaters, and a highly invasive species. 

And there are great fears as to what could happen if they decide to make the Great Lakes home. 

Duane Chapman is a research fish biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. He leads their Asian carp research. Chapman is among scientists who say there has been an up side to all the studies they've been doing since the Asian carp came onto our radar screens. 

He joined today us on Stateside.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

DNR

TRAVERSE CITY – A group of U.S. senators wants the federal government to move faster on preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes through waterways in the Chicago area.

Eleven senators from states in the region sent a letter Tuesday to the assistant secretary of the Army, whose office oversees the Army Corps of Engineers. The letter asks a series of questions about when the Corps might begin tasks such as adding barriers at the southernmost lock in the Chicago Area Waterway System.

It also asks what authorization the Corps needs from Congress to move more quickly toward short- and long-term solutions.

The Corps issued a report in January with options for blocking the invasive carp's path to Lake Michigan, but says Congress and regional stakeholders must choose the final plan.

Congresswoman Candice Miller understands the importance of the Great Lakes. She grew up on the water in Harrison Township. She is a proudly conservative Republican, not crazy about government spending.

But she knows that if the Asian carp get into the Great Lakes, the waterways may be largely destroyed. Destroyed, that is, as a center of recreational and commercial fishing and boating, activities worth billions every year.

Two species of Asian carp, silver and bighead, have been working their way up the Mississippi River ever since escaping from catfish farms in Arkansas in the 1980s. They suck up vast quantities of food, starving out native species of fish. Silver carp, which can weigh 60 pounds, also have a nasty habit of jumping, injuring people and damaging boats.

flickr Kate Gardiner

State lawmakers say they’re concerned about the time and expense of plans to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. And some experts say it’s time to plan for the worst.

State invasive species experts say Michigan does not have the luxury of waiting for a final plan to ensure Asian carp don’t infest the Great Lakes and upset the food chain. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About a hundred people showed up at a public hearing Tuesday night in Ann Arbor to discuss ways to keep Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes.

One by one, people took to the microphone to tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the only way to stop the Asian carp is to close the man-made waterways connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River basin.

Asian carp have devastated native fish populations in parts of the Mississippi River basin since first being introduced in the southern United States. Some species of Asian carp were brought in to help keep retention ponds clean in aquaculture and wastewater treatment facilities.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week federal officials will talk about the options for preventing Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan.

People and organizations will get a chance to have their say about which option they support. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will host meetings in Ann Arbor on Tuesday night and in Traverse City on Thursday.

The meetings are two of six scheduled this month, from Louisiana to Pennsylvania. Officials will also take written comments through early March.

DNR

A Canadian court has slammed a trucking company and one of its drivers with a combined $75,000 fine for trying to haul live Asian carp across the U.S.-Canadian border.

Driver Yong-Sheng Zhang is with the Edmonton, Alberta-based Alltheway Trucking Inc.

Twice in early 2012, Zhang crossed the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, with a truckload of fish from Arkansas. The fish were packed in ice, and included two species of Asian carp.

Destroying things is easier than building them. It takes months to build a house, but you can destroy one in an afternoon. What’s baffling is that we always seem more willing to destroy than to build.

It is far easier to get lawmakers to approve money for war than to build things. For example, we spent at least $2 trillion on our 10-year war in Iraq. It would be interesting to try and explain what we got for it, other than about 200,000 dead people.

Congress easily approved that money. But imagine trying to get our elected representatives to approve anything like that sum to rebuild our nation’s roads and bridges and major cities. No one would even dare try.

I am mentioning all this because of a report released this week – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report on the options for keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. If you don’t remember, we are talking about two species of fish, bighead carp and silver carp that escaped into the Mississippi River more than 20 years ago.

Dan O'Keefe / Michigan Sea Grant

This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a study about what might be done to keep those invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

It took seven years and that was a rush job after some members of Congress accused the Corps of dragging its feet.

The study outlines eight scenarios.

cncphotos / flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley talk about a plan to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, the polar vortex and what the new leadership on Detroit City Council will mean for the city.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

It's going to be another cold one

Wind chills could reach 26 below zero in West Michigan, 32 below in mid Michigan, and 40 below in Southeast Michigan today. Gov. Rick Snyder is asking people to stay home during the cold snap.

New report offers plans to fight Asian carp

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a report years in the making that offers eight plans for preventing Asian carp and other species from migrating between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi basin. Some options involve placing physical barriers in the waterways to separate the watersheds. Other potential steps include use of locks, electric barriers and water treatment to remove invasive species," the Associated Press reports.

Lansing utility scheduled to meet about ice storm that left thousands without power for days

The Lansing Board of Water and Light is scheduled to meet tonight regarding the ice storm that left 40% of its customers without power for more than a week. The utility's general manager,  J. Peter Lark,  has apologized for going to New York City on vacation when the power went out.

DNR

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has developed a video to help anglers identify young Asian carp and prevent them from getting into the Great Lakes.

Asian carp are large, voracious fish that have been migrating toward the lakes from Southern rivers. The two most feared varieties are bighead and silver carp.

Officials fear that juvenile Asian carp will find their way into the bait supply if anglers confuse them with common baitfish such as gizzard shad and emerald shiners.

Natural Area Preservation staff

It was a long shot.

The carp was running as a write-in candidate, and we all know how hard it can be to get voters to spell your name right (amiright, Mike Dugeon?!).

In the end, voters in Ann Arbor's 4th Ward cast 209 write-in votes. Not enough to topple the favorite John Eaton, who - as a biped - ran away with the council seat collecting 1,678 votes.

So it's back to normal life - rooting around in muck of the Huron River for the Twenty-pound Carp

He was a gracious loser. He congratulated Eaton on his win and thanked his advisors, "Shelly the beatboxing turtle and John Quackles, the duck who served as legal counsel."

Read his speech below. (If your browser doesn't load it, read it here.)

Natural Area Preservation staff

You read that right.

A twenty pound carp that was pulled out of a pond in Ann Arbor's West park last November is making a run for city council.

The carp was initially removed from the pond because it was destroying the ecosystem.

Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation workers relocated it to the Huron River, where it is now running a write-in campaign for Ann Arbor City Council.

The carp has not yet responded to our interview requests, but it has engaged with other media outlets and even some current Ann Arbor City Council members on Twitter. (I suspect the carp has hired a social media director -- tweeting with fins seems difficult.)

The carp says the campaign is going well, and even has yard signs posted around town.

flickr Kate Gardiner

There’s a lot of time, money and effort being spent to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

To keep them out, we first have to know where the carp are.

Biologists often go out and sample water from rivers and lakes to look for carp. They test the water for genetic material, and some of those tests have turned up positive for Asian carp.

Last year, 20 samples turned up positive hits in Lake Erie. The positive DNA hits raise alarm bells that an invasive carp species might be establishing a population in the Great Lakes.

But the presence of carp DNA does not mean an actual fish was swimming in that area.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week, the Department of Natural Resources went through a big training drill that’s a first of its kind in Michigan. The drill is supposed to prepare the agency for what to do if the Asian carp makes its way into Michigan’s rivers.

A dozen boats stamped with the DNR logo line the shores of the St. Joseph River. Some of them are normal fishing boats.

But a few have these metal poles sticking out about three feet in front of the boat. At the end of each pole are these long pieces of metal cable that hang down in the water.

The DNR’s Todd Somers is the foreman of one of these homemade boats. He points out a 240-volt generator near the back of the boat. It can deliver up to 16 amps through the metal poles at the front of the boat; sending electric shocks through the cables into the river. That’ll stun any fish nearby.

Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

The Obama administration released the “2013 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework” this past Wednesday. It outlines a $50 million strategic plan to keep the invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

We’ve reported on Asian Carp many times before. They’re an invasive species that was imported to the U.S. in the 1970s. While they were originally used in research ponds and fish farms, they escaped and have been making their way up the Mississippi River system ever since.

The fish could pose a real threat if they reach the Great Lakes. The carp could be a huge disruption to the natural ecosystem of the Great Lakes, potentially harming other fish species like walleye, yellow perch, and salmon.

great-lakes.net

A three day conference is getting underway in Marquette today, looking at the unique needs of cities on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

More than a hundred American and Canadian cities are part of the group organizing the conference.

Dave Ulrich is the executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

He says this year’s conference is focusing on the effects of climate change on Great Lakes cities, particularly on water levels on the lakes.

Kate Gardiner / Creative Commons

Wildlife managers could have a harder time controlling spawning Asian carp, if they escape into the Lake Michigan from Chicago-area shipping canals. That's according to a report released by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Elizabeth Murphy is a hydrologist with the USGS. She co-authored the study.

Murphy says new data shows fertilized Asian carp eggs can incubate in waterways that are only 16 miles long. That’s a lot less than the 62 miles scientists thought the drifting eggs needed.

Lawmakers in Lansing are quickly wrapping up the state budget for the next fiscal year. What will the $50 billion spending plan mean for you?

And, we took a look at the efforts to help prison inmates rebuild their lives through post-secondary education.

Also, we got an update on just how close the Asian Carp is to the Great Lakes.

First on the show, the Council of Great Lakes Governors met this past weekend on Mackinac Island.

The group talked of economic cooperation, and harmonizing plans for protecting the largest body of freshwater on the Earth’s surface. The discussions were mostly nice, but there were some disagreements, especially when it came to dealing with invasive species.

Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta joined us today to explain.

Asian Carp
Kate.Gardner / Flickr

The Council of Great Lakes Governors met this past weekend on Mackinac Island.

The group talked of economic cooperation, and harmonizing plans for protecting the largest body of freshwater on the Earth’s surface. The discussions were mostly nice, but there were some disagreements, especially when it came to dealing with invasive species like Asian carp.

Rick Pluta filed a story on their meeting, and we also got an update on where things stand with Asian carp. 

We spoke with Duane Chapman, a research fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Chapman said that there have been three Bighead carp that have been caught in the Great Lakes, but not since 2000. 

Listen to the whole story to find out where the most recent DNA has been found in the Lakes, and how it got there.

To hear the story, click the audio above.

Illinois Dept of Natural Resources

The Great Lakes governors are meeting this weekend on Mackinac Island.

There may have been a small breakthrough on a plan to deal with the threat of Asian carp spreading into the lakes.

There’s been some tension among the Great Lakes states over what to about Asian carp spreading from the Mississippi River system to Lake Michigan.

The two join at a shipping canal in Chicago. The Great Lakes Council of Governors agreed to adopt a common strategy to fight the spread of invasive species.

Illinois Dept of Natural Resources

A new study claims there is evidence that a small number of Asian Carp have reached the Great Lakes.   

Asian Carp is an invasive species that could potentially damage the Great Lakes environment and seven billion dollar fishing industry.

The paper released Thursday was written by scientists with the University of Notre Dame, The Nature Conservancy and Central Michigan University. It summarizes findings from a two-year search for the carp in and around the Great Lakes. 

Michigan chefs experiment with Asian carp

Mar 26, 2013
Sarah Payette

One of the strategies to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes is to eat the fish now living in the Mississippi River. But finding a market for millions of pounds of carp is not easy. Peter Payette wondered if people could get excited about Asian carp as a seafood delicacy. So he put some in the hands of chefs in Traverse City:

Asian Carp doesn’t taste like much. In fact, you might describe its taste as neutral.

Asian carp at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.
Kate Gardiner / Creative Commons

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by five Great Lakes states that would force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to erect physical barriers to prevent Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan.

The suit claims that the Corps unwillingness to separate Chicago-area rivers and canals from the lake constitutes a public nuisance.

The AP has more:

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Mayors and local officials voice oppose changes to gun laws

"Mayors and other local officials were at the state Capitol Monday to oppose a rewrite some of Michigan’s gun laws. Specifically, they are asking the Legislature to continue to require people who buy pistols from private owners to get a state background check and a license. Background checks are already required by federal law when people buy from dealers. Law enforcement officials say the state’s licensed pistol registry helps them solve crimes and return stolen guns. But supporters of the legislation say the state makes it too difficult for people to legally buy firearms to for self defense," Rick Pluta reports.

Judge dismisses lawsuit over Asian Carp

A federal judge in Chicago dismissed a lawsuit Monday filed by five Great Lake states over threats posed by Asian carp. The states want barriers placed in Chicago-area waterways to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. The Detroit Free Press reports,

"U.S. District Judge John Tharp said he couldn’t order the agencies to do what the states want because federal law requires the corps to keep shipping channels open between Lake Michigan and one of the Chicago waterways -- the Des Plaines River -- and prohibits constructing dams in any navigable waterway without Congress’ consent."

GOP want right-to-work legislation before year's end

GOP lawmakers on Monday focused their efforts to pass right-to-work legislation before the year's end. The Detroit News reports,

"The chamber is pushing for the legislation in response to Indiana becoming a right-to-work state in February and Michigan voters' defeat last month of the union-backed Proposition 2. The initiative aimed to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the Michigan Constitution in an attempt to block a right-to-work law. . . Right-to-work laws seek to ban "union security" clauses in collective bargaining agreements that require employees who don't want to join a union to pay an agency fee — sometimes up to 95 percent of monthly union dues — or be subject to termination by the employer."

Asian carp leaping out of a river.
glfc.org

Crews will begin an intensive search for Asian carp in the Chicago area tomorrow after finding more DNA evidence of the fish in waterways close to Lake Michigan.  Officials found the genetic material above a system of electric barriers that are intended to keep carp out of Lake Michigan.

Chris McCloud is with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He says crews will go out this week on the North Shore Channel and an area of the Chicago River and look for carp.

"We are very confident that if there are Asian carp present in the Chicago Area Waterway System, that they are in very, very low numbers."

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