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A High Priority

As invasive Asian carp continue working their way toward the Great Lakes, the governors of several states in the region appeal to Congress to push for funding that would stop that spread.
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The threat is real, and keeping invasive carp from decimating boating and fishing in the Great Lakes should be a high priority for our industry.

Bighead carp, black carp, grass carp and silver carp are among the Asian carp varieties working their way toward the Great Lakes . The fish were originally imported from Asia for use in Southern aquaculture ponds. But through flooding and accidental releases, the carp got into the Mississippi River system — a freshwater highway giving the fish access to many other rivers and water systems.

The carp are fast-growing, prolific feeders that out-compete native fish and have already left a trail of environmental destruction in their wake. If they gain access to Lake Michigan, they could potentially destroy the $7 billion annual recreational and commercial fisheries in all five Great Lakes, negatively impacting local communities and the marine industry.

Illinois is ground zero for stopping Asian carp. The Brandon Road Lock and Dam — just 27 miles southwest of Chicago on the Illinois Waterway — allows for commercial and recreational travel between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. For carp, it provides an entry point to Lake Michigan.

There are plans for an $858 million project that includes additional electric barriers, underwater sound systems, air bubble curtains and flushing locks to stop carp from swimming to Lake Michigan.

The Army Corps of Engineers recently announced that it would fund $226 million toward the Brandon Road Lock project using money from the federal government’s recent $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. Unfortunately, that’s around $600 million short of what’s needed.

Moreover, the surrounding Great Lakes states’ 20 percent share of the project cost is well beyond available funding, according to the governors of the eight states. Thankfully, there are contingencies built into the total price, which could reduce the cost. However, the states are pushing for full federal funding, which they correctly argue is warranted for a threat that extends across so many states.

In late December, governors sent an appeal to Congress to fund the rest of the project. Notably, Michigan and Illinois signed an agreement a year ago whereby Michigan provided $8 million of the approximately $10 million cost share of the project’s planning, engineering and design. The governors are asking for complete federal funding of the remainder of the design, construction, engineering and maintenance.

Five of the top 10 states in boat registrations are Great Lakes states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and New York. A threat of this magnitude to such a critical boating region calls for a concerted effort led by the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, National Marine Manufacturers Association, regional and state marine trades associations, and powerful boating interest groups, such as BoatUS, to be actively engaged in pushing for the funding to stop the carp.

The governors signing the appeal to Congress include Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

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