Michigan expands effort to stop invasive species

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Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette recently announced a new effort by six Great Lakes attorneys general to expand a coalition to fight the spread of aquatic invasive species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels passing between the basins of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River via Chicago-area waterways.

Schuette and the attorneys general of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania are reaching out to colleagues in other states affected by aquatic invasive species by asking those officials to join them in demanding immediate action by federal authorities to develop a permanent ecological separation at Chicago.

Such a barrier would halt the spread of and damage caused by aquatic invasive species.

In July, the Army Corps of Engineers released a list of 40 aquatic invasive species with the highest risk of traveling through the waterway in either direction. Of those species, 30 pose a high risk to the Mississippi River Basin and 10, including Asian carp, pose a high risk to the Great Lakes Basin.

“We have Asian carp coming into Lake Michigan and zebra mussels moving out of the Great Lakes and into the heart of our country, both of which are like poison to the ecology of our waters,” Schuette said in a statement. “This is not just a Great Lakes issue. It is a national issue. By working together we hope to put pressure on the federal government to act before it’s too late.”

The Great Lakes attorneys general will target their outreach to 27 states that have already been affected by invasive species first introduced to the United States via the Great Lakes, many arriving in the ballast water of oceangoing vessels.

Affected states include those with territory on waterways along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, as well as those as far west as Nevada. Those states have seen the alien species brought into their waters, most likely on boats that picked them up in the Mississippi Basin.


7 comments on “Michigan expands effort to stop invasive species

  1. Great Lakes Fisherman

    This has got to be the most absurd stunt yet regarding political grandstanding over the Asian Carp Issue.

    First we had Michigan’s Attorney General Mike Cox spreading misinformation and needless panic to “save Michigan’s way of life” during his unsuccessful bid for Governor. Then the Attorneys General from other Great Lakes states joined in hoping their promise “to save the Great Lakes” would gain them some political traction. Now, after the Supreme Court, the US District Court, and the District Appeals Court rejected their Great Lakes CarpAgeddon Hoax, Schuette decided to take their medicine show on the road to try to bamboozle other states’ voters as well.

    While all this has been going on the State of New York passed strong legislation to require all ocean vessels entering the Great Lakes to sterilize their ballast tanks. The states suing to close Chicago’s waterways and Canada protested fearing that such an effective measure would hurt their own ports, shipping interests, and industries just as closing Chicago’s waterways would hurt Indiana and Illinois. To head off New York’s legislation the other states and Ontario are backing weaker unified federal legislation that would weaken New York’s law and protection for the Great Lakes. All of a sudden their concern for protecting the Great Lakes fishery vanished into thin air.

    What these Attorneys General are really telling other states is that their states are unwilling to stop invasive species so if you want to protect yourself, the waterways in Chicago must be severed. That’s Pure Crapola. If future invasive species enter other states from the Great Lakes those states can blame Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Ontario not Illinois, Indiana, and Chicago.

    There are, however, several other problems with their argument.

    First, they have chosen the Zebra Mussel as their invasive species poster child. That’s really funny because Zebra Mussels quickly migrated over the ultimate physical barrier – the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. Their best argument using the Zebra Mussel migration dramatically proves that their strategy of severing Chicago’s waterways with a little dam will NOT protect other states from invasive species moving from the Great Lakes.

    Second, the same ocean going vessels that ply the Saint Lawrence Seaway also enter the Mississippi River from the Gulf Of Mexico as they make their way to the Port of New Orleans and beyond. So severing Chicago’s waterways will have no effect what so ever in protecting the Mississippi River basin and other states from invasive species carried by ocean going vessels.

    Third, the US House of Representatives has already heard this argument and voted to keep Chicago’s waterways open by an overwhelmingly strong bipartisan vote. Congress is simply not buying the myth these Attorneys General are selling.

    This desperate plea to other states to help Schuette save face and keep this political hoax alive Is simply a sham and should not be taken seriously.

  2. Reality Bites

    I would urge Great Lakes Fisherman to look at some videos of Asian Carp in the Illinois river before declaring the desire to stop them from destroying the Great Lakes ecosystem- not just the lakes, but every river, creek, stream, lake, ditch, and puddle that touches the great lakes- a “political hoax.” If he truly is a Great Lakes Fisherman, then he should be a supporter of programs to keep this from happening. Fish that eat plankton are hard to catch with a hook, as all of the videos of people hunting Asian Carp with bow and arrow will attest.

    Now- here’s the reality part. How many commercial boats use the Chicago Sanitary Canal? How many people work on those boats? If the canal were closed, would goods cease to be shipped? How many people’s businesses are dependent on the Great Lakes ecosystem? The destruction of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem does not pass muster no matter what excuse you use, and the number of people effected by the canal’s closure is dwarfed by the number of people who depend on this ecosystem remaining in its current state (or getting better).

    Also- consider:

    How many jobs would be created if infrastructure improvements were made to Chicago’s rail system- which is a major national bottleneck- to ship goods that would have come by barge? How many jobs would be created in the trucking business? The warehouse business? Ships, by their nature, are mobile. Most, if not all of them, move to other waters during the winter when shipping is halted by ice. If the canal is moved, won’t those boats and captains simply move to other waters, such as the Mississippi basin, where they are in short supply?

    Once the carp are allowed in the lakes, will we ever get rid of them?

    I am not in favor of destroying the ecosystem for the sake of a handful of barge captains who wield an amazing amount of political power, and people who share their propaganda.

  3. Great Lakes Fisherman

    Reality Bites,

    Unfortunately you will not find reality or facts from U-Tube videos or what you hear from politicians. Your argument is pretty much what the Courts heard and rejected for good reason.

    First, regarding the threat to the Great Lakes. Here, in a nut shell, is an honest summary of all Schuette and the other AGs could muster:

    “We believe that Asian Carp MAY be a significant threat to the Great Lakes IF they can get past Chicago’s electric barriers in significant numbers and IF they can survive in the Great Lakes and IF they can breed in the Great Lakes and IF they can out compete other fish for food and, we have absolutely NO scientific proof that any of this will happen.” That’s Reality.

    With that argument they were quickly dispatched by the Supreme Court, twice, and then foolishly tried to convince a District Court Judge and three District Appeals Court Judges to overlook their political stunt and close a strategic commercial and recreational waterway linking two major economic regions of the country. Even more embarrassing, although the state of Ohio was one of the plaintiffs. one of the witnesses for the defendants was a professor from Ohio State University with intimate knowledge of Asian Carp and the Great Lakes ecology who testified that Asian Carp posed no significant threat to the Great Lakes. Several prominent marine biologists from universities and research centers in Michigan have also expressed similar opinions. That’s reality.

    In order to grant an injunction to close Chicago’s locks the states filing the suit had a burden to prove that the electric barriers and other measures taken on Chicago’s waterways are not working and that Asian Carp could survive and establish a breeding population in the Great Lakes and, their presence would have a significant adverse impact on the Lakes’ ecology and economy. The truth is that no such proof exists and Schuette and the other AGs representing other states filing the suit knew it.

    If such proof surfaces in the future the district court may revisit the injunction but, from what is actually known and scientifically proven about the Asian Carp to date, there is no strong argument that they pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes. It is obvious that the district court put no weight on the political carp grandstanding and political hoax being handed down by Schuette and other politicians running for office.

    You should know that Chicago’s waterways are open 24/7 365 days a year and the large number of commercial and recreational users make the waterway’s locks the second busiest in the nation. It’s not about the barge operators, it’s about the commodities they move that serve industries throughout the Midwest. Move those commodities by truck or rail and the transportation costs increase by a factor of 9 and 4 respectively. Two of the major industries they support are steel mills and oil refineries in northern Indiana. Who will pay for that added cost? You will, every time you buy a boat trailer, a marine engine, a new tow vehicle, or buy fuel. Who will pay to re-engineer Chicago’s storm water infrastructure? You will pay for that as well. And, who will pay for the new railroads and highways to move those commodities at a higher cost. Yes, you will, over and over again for eternity. And, don’t forget the loss of jobs in industries paying for higher transportation costs as well. That’s reality.

    So what did the courts think about that argument?

    The plaintiff states had to prove that the economic harm to the Great Lakes would be greater than the harm realized by the defendants including the city of Chicago, industry, and the waterway’s recreational users if Chicago’s waterways were severed. That involved weighing the potential harm against the probability that the harm would materialize. In that case the judges ruled that the economic damage to those dependent on the waterways was greater and more likely to occur than any potential damage to the Great Lakes.and ruled in favor of the defendants That was a “no brainer” for the court and, that too is reality.

    Yes, I agree, Reality Bites!

  4. Reality Bites

    But I will, apparently, find facts from an anonymous commenter who supports the shipping industry’s position on the Trade Only Today Daily News for Marine Professionals web site?

    The premise that the conclusion of hundreds of respected scientists is all hooey and that the shipping industry knows better is plenty of reason to doubt the facts they, and Great Lakes Fisherman, present.

    Here is the bottom line:

    If the canals are closed marine shipping will loose out. Rail and trucking will simply increase capacity and pick up the slack. Chicagoland will be forced to accelerate its improvements to sewage discharge systems, which currently dump raw sewage into Lake Michigan nearly every time it rains. The former is an inconvenience to some, the latter is something that is going to happen anyway.

    If the carp are allowed into the Great Lakes they will destroy the ecosystem forever. There will be no chance for recovery. It will not be an inconvenience, and it will not go away. It will be permanent.

    To many, including the overwhelming majority of people in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes, the destruction of the ecosystem is not a fair trade just to save the marine shipping industry on the Chicago Sanitary Canal.

  5. Great Lakes Fisherman

    Reality Bites,

    Your lack of knowledge of Chicago’s waterways and the political and environmental realities surrounding the Asian Carp issue is truly painful.

    You are evidently unaware that some 8,000 pleasure boaters use those waterways and navigate through Chicago’s locks 50,000 – 60,000 times a year. Those pleasure boaters and fisherman are served by hundreds of marinas, recreational marine retailers, and marine technicians throughout the Chicago area and northern Indiana and I know for a fact that many of them read Trade Only as well.

    I have no connection to the commercial water transportation industry or the industries they serve and I do not speak for the shipping industries. In fact, you give the shipping interests way to much credit regarding their political influence.

    Your obsession with the barge operators and preaching CarpAgeddon is obviously preventing you from seeing the big picture and differentiating between myth and reality regarding the complex political, economic, infrastructure, and environmental issues surrounding this controversy.

    I have been studying all these issues in depth for over two years and have yet to find a single credible published scientific study that has definitively concluded that Asian Carp pose any significant threat to the Great Lakes. Neither has Attorney General Bill Schuette or his Predecessor Mike Cox.

    So, if you have found such a study please post a link for everyone to see as I’m sure the Attorneys General perpetrating the CarpAgeddon hoax in court could use it and would be eternally grateful.

    The real bottom line is that it would cost $billions and take 25 years to sever Chicago’s waterways and make the necessary infrastructure changes to do so and, in the end we would still not have an effective solution to invasive species migration between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Basin. The true reality is all we would really end up with is a more costly and less efficient commercial transportation system, more pollution in southern Lake Michigan, and a crippled recreational boating industry in the largest metropolitan area on the Great Lakes.

    And that’s reality!

  6. Reality Bites

    I’m glad that so many pleasure boaters enjoy the Chicago Sanitary Canal. I’m sure that they would enjoy Lake Michigan even better, as it is not composed of 70% effluent from Chicagoland’s wastewater treatment facilities. 8,000 pleasure boaters on the Sanitary Canal is quite a lot, it seems, under those circumstances. I’m also quite sure that while it may seem like a lot, it pales in comparison to the number of users of the Great Lakes ecosystem as a whole by hundreds, maybe even thousands of percent. To say that the entire ecosystem should be jeopardized for the sake of even 8,000 pleasure boaters is even more ridiculous than the economic impact on marine shipping, not less.

    If you’re having trouble locating the scientific studies on the Carp in the Great Lakes, you may want to try Google, or if that isn’t working for you, Bing or StartingPage. It’s not hard to find.

  7. Great Lakes Fisherman

    Reality Bites,

    Based on your response it is obvious that YOU were not able to find a single credible published scientific study that has definitively concluded that Asian Carp pose any significant threat to the Great Lakes.

    Too bad you can’t back up your claims.

    I guess that’s just another reality we will have to accept.

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