OH: Ohio sites on risk list for Asian carp

Akron, Ohio – A new study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
pinpoints nine Ohio waterways where Asian carp could move between
the Mississippi (Ohio) River and Great Lakes watersheds.

One of those locations – Long Lake on the Ohio-Erie Canal in
Summit County – is number two on the Corps’ list of places posing
the greatest risk.

The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS)
identified 18 midwestern locations (outside Chicago) where the
Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds run so close they
could overlap in a moderate flood. Nine are in Ohio where the
dividing line between watersheds roughly runs between Portage Lakes
on the east and Grand Lake St. Marys on the west.

Long Lake is an Ohio-Erie Canal feeder. Its place on the GLMRIS
priority list is right behind Eagle Marsh near Ft. Wayne, Ind.,
where currently a “carp fence” is all that’s keeping adult fish out
of the Maumee River and Lake Erie beyond.

Little Killbuck Creek ranks fourth on the GLMRIS list and Grand
Lake St. Marys is number seven. The study recommended an evaluation
of conditions and design of canal operations at both Long Lake and
Grand Lake St. Marys on the Miami-Erie Canal as a preventative
measure.

But officials with the Ohio DNR believe the Chicago area’s
complex system of shipping canals remain the most likely pathway
for the voracious invasives to reach the Great Lakes.

“The (Army Corps study) is good information to have,” said Ray
Petering, the DNR’s executive administrator of fish management.
“But the real threat is in Chicago.”

Moderate numbers of Asian carp are already present in the Des
Plaines River and Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. A three-tiered
electric barrier, erected across the canal about 25 miles south of
the city, aims to keep the huge and hungry fish out of Lake
Michigan. But carp DNA turned up beyond the barrier last year,
prompting new concern about effectiveness of the device.

“If 2 percent get through – that’s all it would take,” Petering
said. “The barrier is not adequate in our estimation.”

Petering doesn’t exactly scoff at the idea of Asian carp
reaching the Great Lakes through Long Lake, but he doesn’t share
the Corps’ level of concern.

“There’s not a carp within a couple of hundred miles of there,”
he said.

Petering noted Asian carp are already present in the Ohio River
south of Louisville. But Ohio’s stretch of the river lacks the
quiet backwaters carp need to reproduce.

“They are not found in significant numbers upriver of
Louisville,” he said.

While lack of habitat may prove a natural barrier in the south,
there’s very little stopping Asian carp on the north. They’ve
gradually traveled north in the Mississippi River since escaping
southern catfish farms during 1990s floods.

Biologists believe the fish, which grow to 100 pounds and eat
virtually everything smaller, could devastate the Great Lakes
fishing industry if allowed to breach the watersheds.

In the meantime, the Corps has delayed until 2015 a study of
alternative ways to block carp progress into the Great Lakes.

“That timing is disastrous, compared to the threat,” Petering
said.

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