Though the Twenty Pound Carp lost its bid for election to the Ann Arbor City Council in November, its aquatic relatives are continuing to generate conversation around the state.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) spoke at a public meeting hosted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers on campus Tuesday to discuss plans to stop the spread of the invasive species Asian Carp. Held at the Michigan League and attended by nearly 100 people, the event aimed to giving residents a chance to speak on the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study recently released by the USACE.
The event is one in a series of public meetings being held across the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes regions.
The GLMRIS report explores strategies to stop Asian carp and other invasive aquatic species from entering the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins. It focuses on the Chicago waterway system as the primary connection between the two bodies of water and offers seven potential solutions to control the flow of aquatic species between the waterway and the Great Lakes.
Asian carp feed on many endangered species of mussels and snails, disrupting local food webs and native species, including fish. These environmental consequences have also affected local fishing and boating industries.
Stabenow spoke first during the public comment section of the meeting and said she sees the report as an important first step. However, she added that the project needs to move more quickly, as most of the solutions specified in the report had a time horizon of more than 10 years.
“Every day is a risk to us on something that’s incredibly important,” Stabenow said.
In an interview after the event, she added that a more focused proposal needs to be drafted before political action can be taken.
“We have to have, from a technical standpoint, what is the best thing or at least a couple of options,” Stabenow said. “We’re just not quite there yet and we can’t get to actually proposing construction until we get consensus around the solution.”
Before Stabenow’s remarks, GLMRIS project manager Dave Wethington told the crowd that public engagement has been a key component of the project since the beginning.
“Aquatic species control is a shared responsibility,” Wethington said. “Implementation of any one of these plans or a number of those plans is a shared responsibility among a range of federal, state and non-government, including the public such as yourselves.”
Sarah Neville, stewardship coordinator of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, an organization that promotes protection of the Great Lakes, stressed in her commentary that the impact of invasive species is too monumental to ignore, even though the price for most of the solutions are in the billions in terms of dollars.
“The health of the Great Lakes as well as the communities and the jobs they support are worth it,” Neville said. “We cannot afford to undermine the investments we are making in the protection of the Great Lakes.”
Wethington said the response at other public meetings has been enthusiastic. Although it’s not typical for the USACE to hold public events to review every report, public commentary made sense for GLMRIS because of the effect private citizens can have on the issue.
“There are things that the public can do as individuals that can help in this fight against invasive species.” Wethington said. “That’s kind of the grassroots angle of it.”