Asian carp prevention, too little too late?
The recent release of a plan from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about how to keep Asian carp from moving from the Mississippi River watershed into the Great Lakes will likely be a case of history repeating itself.
The only thing now keeping silver and bighead carp out of the lakes are electrical barriers positioned in the main waterway linking the two watersheds. Adult carp, encountering the barriers are repelled by the energized water.
It’s good we have them, right? A better question is: Why do we have them?
In 1990 round gobies were found in the Great Lakes. In a few years they’d spread throughout the lower lakes and officials were uncertain what the outcome of their accidental introduction would be. Other officials worried about the Great Lakes’ gobies escaping through the man-made channels that connect the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed, allowing them to infiltrate much of middle America.
The solution? Electrify a section of the main connecting channel to keep the gobies on the Great Lake side of the barrier.
Good plan! Except by the time the bureaucratic red tape was sliced, the plans completed, the contracts signed and construction of the electric barrier completed, years had passed. So had the gobies. They’d expanded their range into the mid-American rivers years before the switch was thrown.
Still, tape had been cut, plans drawn, contracts signed, so the project continued. It was easier to throw good money after bad than spend good money to stop the project. So the goby barrier was up and running by the time the Asian carp arrived in near proximity to the Great Lakes. The goby barrier became the carp barrier.
It has been recognized that the electrified carp barrier is an imperfect solution so the Army Corps was tasked with building a better plan to keep Asian carp from moving into the Great Lakes. And hurry it up, please.
The plan is out with eight alternatives. Two of the alternatives are recognized “losers.” Alternative one is do nothing and rely on the electric barriers. The second is to do nothing except put up signs. (Bulletin: carp can’t read.)
One of the other six alternatives, they project, can be completed in 10 years. The other five alternatives will take 25 years.
So history is repeating itself. The gobies infiltrated faster than the bureaucracy and public contractors could complete their assigned tasks. What’s the chance the carp will stay bottled up in the Mississippi for 10, or more likely, 25 years before the government solutions become a reality?