State and federal officials vowed Monday to expand an aggressive campaign to prevent Asian carp from establishing populations in the Great Lakes, pledging $78.5 million to the effort.
The governors of Wisconsin and Michigan met with Obama administration officials to discuss ways to keep the carp out of the lakes. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn participated by telephone. Asian carp is a term used for any of four invasive species of carp.
The carp-control framework proposed Monday also includes a plan to open locks into Lake Michigan less frequently to prevent the fish from entering, a move that could have implications for the shipping industry.
"We believe the strategy and these actions are giving a strong and aggressive federal response to the Asian carp," said Nancy Sutley, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
While no live Asian carp have been found in the Great Lakes, scientists have found traces of carp DNA in Lake Michigan upstream from electric barriers designed to keep the fish out.
Asian carp were introduced into the Mississippi River basin after catfish farmers imported the carp in the 1970s to control algae. Many fear the fish could destroy the Great Lakes' ecosystem and multibillion-dollar fishing industry by devouring the food supplies for native fish populations.
In December, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a brief supporting Michigan's request for an injunction to immediately close two Illinois shipping locks that connect the Mississippi to the Great Lakes. Minnesota joined New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and the province of Ontario in supporting the measure. Illinois officials and the federal government opposed closing the locks, citing economic concerns. On Jan. 19, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Michigan's request to close the locks immediately.
Federal officials said the governors did not discuss the lawsuit at their meeting Monday, although Jo-Ellen Darcy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that the locks represent only two ways for the carp to enter the Great Lakes and that closing them was "not necessarily the silver bullet that we're all looking for."
Charlie Wooley of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who is based in Minneapolis, said this is not the only anti-carp effort Minnesota is undertaking.
"We're not only concerned about the fish getting into the Great Lakes. We also have researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey starting to develop techniques that could control Asian carp in other parts of its expanded range," he said. "We'd like to develop techniques and then reclaim areas where the Asian carp are now and get these rivers back to where they have native fish species."
Haley Tsukayama • 202-662-7301