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Coming to the Great Lakes soon?  (Photo: USFWS)
Coming to the Great Lakes soon? (Photo: USFWS)

Green groups want Obama to protect Great Lakes from Asian carp invasion

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Environmental groups are blasting the US Corps of Engineers and urging President Obama to do far more to stop the spread of an invasive fish into the Great Lakes.

Scientists say the aggressive Asian carp -which can weigh up to 100 pounds--could wipe out natural fish stocks in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

As Brian Mann reports, some lawmakers want new, permanent barriers that would prevent the fish from spreading.

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Last week an invasive Asian carp breached electric fence barriers and found its way into Lake Calumet, just six miles from Lake Michigan. The invasive species pose an enormous threat to Great Lakes ecosystems.

Green groups from around the Great Lakes region called on President Obama to bring in a national incident commander to manage the federal response to the Asian carp threat. Henry Henderson with the Natural Resource Defense Council says he no longer has confidence in the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We get late briefings on stale information, often misrepresented and there's absolutely no indication of what's happening in terms of a comprehensive review and testing of the advance of these fish, what's being done about it," he said.

Efforts to reach the Army Corps of Engineers yesterday were unsuccessful. But also on Wednesday a group of lawmakers endorsed new federal legislation that would permanently close waterways that connect the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River System. It would require the corps to speed up research to divide the two drainages permanently. Business groups oppose that plan. Jim Farrell, executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's infrastructure council, said building a physical barrier that stops barge traffic is "likely to be a dead end."

But Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee, told WISN TV that all steps should be taken to stop Asian carp: "I don't want to see the economy of Illinois disrupted but at the same time we can't have the entire ecosystem of the Great Lakes disrupted by this predator fish."

Joel Brammeier with the Alliance for the Great Lakes said if Asian carp reached Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, those ecosystems could be devastated.

"If we don't solve the problem and come up with a permanent solution, the Great Lakes are done. These fish can out-spawn and out-compete many of our native Great Lakes fish. The action to prevent an invasion needs to be happening now and it needed to be happening yesterday."

Congress plans to hold hearings on the Asian carp crisis July 14th.

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