Michigan will ask summit to close Chicago canal

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Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan environmental agencies hope Monday’s White House summit regarding Asian carp will prompt federal and local governments to take immediate action.
Nick De Leeuw, a public information officer for Attorney General Mike Cox, said Michigan’s goal is to get the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal closed.
We want “to keep the carp out of the lakes, protect the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery and nearly a million Michigan jobs,” he said.
The state is also worried about the damage to other species if Asian carp get into inland rivers and streams.
Ken DeBeaussaert, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, said, “We have the experience of seeing what’s happened in other river systems when the carp did become settled in those areas.  In the Illinois system, they’d crowd out the native fisheries there, overpopulate and over-compete for the food supply.
“It really upset the entire ecosystem,” DeBeaussaert said.
The Obama administration announced that the summit will include Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, along with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm, as well as Govs. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin and Pat Quinn of Illinois, will attend.
Illinois is the only Great Lakes state that opposes the closure of the canal, citing millions of dollars in shipping revenue lost as a likely result.
But De Leeuw said closure is necessary to protect Great Lakes fisheries.
He said that Illinois has 63 of about 10,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, “but somehow they’re still controlling the fate of the entire Great Lakes region.”
DeBeaussaert is among those who want the canal closed and said the summit will provide another avenue toward achieving that goal.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to try to get the sense of urgency that we feel about the need to act to protect the Great Lakes from the threat,” he said.
DeBeaussaert said the summit presents an opportunity for Michigan and other Great Lakes states to impress upon federal agencies the need for immediate action.
Many lawmakers in Great Lakes states are pressing for action to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, calling the situation urgent.
DNA evidence shows that Asian carp have breached an electrical barrier on the Chicago River southwest of Chicago.
Asian carp are a nonnative species introduced to North America through Arkansas fish hatcheries and have been swimming up the Mississippi River for years.  Many scientists fear the carp will soon find their way through Chicago and into Lake Michigan.
Cox has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to close the canal for a second time.  The court rejected the state’s original request in January.
Despite that ruling, some agencies – such as the Office of the Great Lakes — are pressing for closure.
“We have called for the emergency action of closing and obviously have not been successful to this point,” DeBeaussaert said.
“We need to identify what our longer-term responses will be until we reach the point that we think is necessary of finally separating the systems so that we don’t have this passage of the problems of the Mississippi to the Great Lakes or vice versa,” he said.
Mary Dettloff, a public information officer for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said the carp present an urgent and immediate problem.
“Once it’s here, it’s here,” she said.  “There’s proved to be no way to eliminate or get rid of it.”
Dettloff said Asian carp would harm game fish such as steelhead, salmon and trout if they make it into Michigan’s river systems.
“It would cause a great deal of havoc with spawning habits over other species in those rivers,” she said.
“From an ecological standpoint, we’re most concerned with the changes that could occur with the food web.  It can out-eat every other species in the lake,” she said.
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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