Sen. Sherrod Brown wants states and the federal government to coordinate their efforts to prevent an invasion of Asian carp in the upper the Ohio River basin.
Brown held a conference call with reporters on Wednesday to discuss the bipartisan legislation introduced late last year. The Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act, co-sponsored by Pat Toomey, R-Pa., would give the federal government a more effective partnership between the state and local entities charged with the task of turning back the invasive species’ progression into the Ohio basin.
The carp, which are already in the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers, can grow to 100 pounds or more each. They endanger the sport fishing industry in rivers and lakes where they thrive. Brown said Wednesday that there is evidence the species has already compromised several locks on the lower Ohio River. He said completely closing the 19 lock dams on the river is not a practical solution because it would bring an end to commercial shipping on the waterway.
The legislation would put the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in charge of coordinating other federal and state agencies with a stake in the issue. That would include the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Army Corps of Engineers and, in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The bill does not provide a funding component.
“It’s not a huge expense,” Brown said. “It’s coordinating and working together better than they have in the past.”
Brown said the Fish and Wildlife Service would be required to submit a progress report to Congress every year. The accountability factor should ensure better cooperation and more effective use of existing resources in addressing the problem.
The issue of Asian carp in the Great Lakes was addressed in the Stop Invasive Species Act, which requires the expedited creation of a plan to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through a number of rivers and tributaries across the Great Lakes region.
“The Ohio River is equally important,” Brown said.
During the call-in conference, Brown was asked about the wisdom of putting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in charge of the effort — the agency approved importation of the fish in the 1970s as a way to clear deal with scum on southern ponds. Brown defended having the same agency head up the coordination effort, noting that “I think they are best equipped to do it and learn from their mistakes.”
Biologists have said that the carp pose an especially severe threat to Lake Erie because it is the most biologically diverse of the five Great Lakes. That is to say there’s plenty of grub for the carp to eat here.
While the species could come in the front door through the Chicago Shipping Canal and Great Lakes system, there is also a threat of access from the Ohio River. Long Lake in the Akron area, is near the Tuscarawas River, an Ohio River tributary. Flooding that area could create the link between the river and lake that would give carp access to Lake Erie, according to a 2010 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study. Other likely gateways, according to the corps’ study, are Chicago and a flooded marsh in northern Indiana.