Indiana's attorney general is calling on the federal government to make grants available to help states battle the spread of Asian carp. Greg Zoeller says potential solutions in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study are “too limiting” and believes states should be able to pursue their own efforts.

February 11, 2014

News Release

Portage, Ind. — A portion of the federal funds used for Asian carp control efforts in the Great Lakes should be offered to states as grants to contain or eradicate the invasive fish in their rivers and streams, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller proposed today.

The recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study report, known as GLMRIS, identified eight potential options for preventing spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes from the Chicago waterways and shipping canal, but did not recommend any option and did not address the Wabash River or other Indiana rivers and streams where the carp already have invaded. Speaking today at a public comment meeting about the study, Zoeller said the eight GLMRIS options are too limiting and states should receive federal grant support to pursue their own efforts in their own waterways.

“Some of the GLMRIS options would cost billions of dollars and take many years to complete, and to suggest Congress should be limited to those eight options only is a false choice. My proposal is a simple one: Use some of the federal funds already enacted or eventually approved to establish grants for the Great Lakes states. The states then could undertake programs to determine how to push the highly mobile Asian carp back downstream to be potentially contained or removed, and away from entrances to the Great Lakes,” Zoeller said during his testimony at the meeting.

Zoeller noted Purdue University research into the surprising mobility of the Asian carp that indicated the fish can travel far upstream in the Wabash during spring flood periods and back downriver as water levels drop in summer months, and found carp spawning at a later time of year than was previously assumed. He noted concern by experts that if the fish were to infiltrate Lake Michigan through the current Chicago-area electronic barrier then they potentially would have access to spread from the Great Lakes upstream into the tributary rivers and streams of eight states.

Four species of carp native to Asia but non-native to the U.S. have spread northward up the Mississippi River basis since they were inadvertently released from fish hatcheries in the South in the 1970s. Two pose concern in the Wabash River in Indiana: the bighead carp, which can grow four feet long and 90 pounds, and the silver carp, which swarm and leap out of the water in large numbers at the sound of boat motors and can injure passing boaters. Asian carp outcompete native fish for space and resources by vacuuming up plankton that other fish depend on to survive. That in turn is harmful to the sport fishing and the recreation industry in Wabash River communities.

“If established by Congress, federal grants could be used by states to research and develop containment and eradication programs in our rivers and streams, possibly through developing commercial fishing of Asian carp to keep the carp population down,” Zoeller said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was the lead agency in conducting a congressionally authorized, seven-year, multimillion-dollar study of Asian carp, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study or GLMRIS, whose report was unveiled last month. The initial series of public meetings the Corps held on the GLMRIS report did not include any meeting sites in Indiana, and Zoeller on January 7 publicly called on the Corps to schedule such a meeting within the Hoosier state. Zoeller said he was pleased that today’s meeting finally was held in Portage, Ind., at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission auditorium, but added that a meeting also should have been held in closer proximity to the Wabash River — such as in Lafayette, so that more Hoosiers from the affected river communities could attend and be heard.

Also testifying at today's meeting with concerns about the GLMRIS report on Asian carp infestation was The Nature Conservancy in Indiana.

“While the jury is still out on exactly what impacts Asian carp are having on river ecology, we know we don’t want them moving into the Great Lakes. The timelines for prevention options in the report are too long. The economic and ecological risks are too high to wait that long,” said Mary McConnell, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Indiana.

“Hoosiers want to protect our rivers and streams from invasive species, so we appreciate The Nature Conservancy in Indiana taking a thoughtful leadership role in offering constructive ideas for addressing this environmental problem that threatens our use and enjoyment of the Wabash River and other Indiana waterways,” Zoeller said.

As Indiana attorney general, Zoeller is lawyer for State government and represents the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Environmental Management and other state agencies in court. In mid-July 2013, Zoeller made a four-day tour and inspection by boat for much of the length of the Wabash River, from Wabash, Ind., downriver to New Harmony, Ind., and he met with local conservation groups and elected officials at stops along the way to listen to their concern about Asian carp. Zoeller said he plans to communicate with Indiana’s congressional delegation about the need to look beyond the options of the GLMRIS study report and to use federal funding to establish grants for states for carp control efforts.

Source: Office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller

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