Public has say, but carp action plan still elusive

Chicago — Public comments have been recognized, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers apparently is no closer to making a decision on how to control Asian carp.

In a summary of public comments released on May 5, the Corps said public input would “be helpful in making decisions in the future,” but that the federal agency would have to wait for Congress to come to a final conclusion before taking action – or choosing an action plan to protect Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.

“While a clear consensus among all interested parties could not be identified, a variety of common themes emerged,” the summary stated. “A well-organized and passionate voice on behalf of the Great Lakes community communicated a strong and urgent will to continue to protect this natural resource from further damage by aquatic nuisance species.”

How to protect the Great Lakes is the question that no one seems to be able to answer.

Public comment had been solicited in response to a Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study released earlier this year. That study outlined eight potential plans within the Chicago Area Waterway System to address the transfer of aquatic nuisance species between the two basins.

In its summary of public comments, the Corps indicated that more than half of the comments originated from Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.  More than 98 percent of the commentors expressed support for the need to control invasive species; 40 percent favored an alternative that involved some type of physical separation; and 35 percent wanted an alternative that maintained current uses of the CAWS, predominantly navigation.

“The comments submitted reflect passion about preserving valuable natural resources and the vitality of our shared waterways,” Dave Wethington, GLMRIS program manager, said.

Nearly 2,300 people from Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin submitted a comment as part of a Sierra Club campaign, in which a common form letter stated that hydrological separation is the only permanent solution that addresses all aquatic invasive species.

Most of the commentors did not indicate a specific plan. Physical separation plans No. 5 and No. 6 were mentioned most often.

Commentary on the GLMRIS report was accepted through a series of public meetings. People also were invited to submit input through the Internet, mail and e-mail.

More than 650 people from 13 states attended the GLMRIS Report public meetings. More than 60 percent of participants at these meetings listed Illinois, Michigan or Ohio as their home address. About 185 individuals – including state senators, attorneys general, fishermen and shipping interests – provided oral comments at one or more of these meetings.

The comment summary can be viewed at http://glmris.anl.gov/. 

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