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Environment & Climate Change
Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi River system for years after escaping from fish farms and wastewater treatment ponds in the southern U.S.They’re knocking on the door of the Great Lakes, and a number of people are concerned about what could happen if carp become established in the region.In this five-part series, we’ll take a look at what officials are trying to do to keep the fish out, what might happen if carp get in, and why some people want to turn carp into a business opportunity.

Will plans to stop Asian carp invasion take too long?

This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a study about what might be done to keep those invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

It took seven years and that was a rush job after some members of Congress accused the Corps of dragging its feet.

The study outlines eight scenarios.

Ranging from doing nothing – that would mean hoping an electronic barrier in a Chicago canal keeps the Asian carp in the Mississippi River basin and stops them from getting into the Great Lakes – to an $18 billion plan that would take 25 years to complete. That plan would put a permanent physical barrier between the river system and the lakes to keep the invasive fish out of Lake Michigan.

Tom Henry reports on environmental issues for the Toledo Blade. He says at least the Corps got the study out and the Great Lakes states can start lobbying Washington.

“Now they can sound out Congress and see what kind of response and get the ball rolling that should have been rolling a long time ago," Henry said in a telephone interview.

Henry says the Asian carp are not going to play nice and stay out of the Great Lakes waiting for the Corps to complete a 25-year plan.

“I think the question that a lot of people have is what to do to fill that window of time, a very long 25 years,” Henry said.

Tim Eder is the executive director of the Great Lakes Commission. He says he’s glad the Corps of Engineers study is finished, but he notes that it does not give policy makers a recommendation.

“It’s disappointing in the fact that, you know, we’ve spent seven years working on this and we don’t have a clear path forward,” said Eder.

So, the states will have to get together, and try to agree on one of the scenarios. They hope to come up with something soon. In the meantime, Eder says they need to concentrate on an interim plan.

“That's one of the things we’re going to be focusing on is identifying what can be done in the short term to reduce risk as we move forward toward those long-term solutions like physical separation,” Eder said.

That's because Asian carp are not likely to wait around to see what the Corps of Engineers finally ends up doing. And once those fish invade the Great Lakes, it’s hard telling what kind of damage they might do to fishing in the lakes, or the streams and rivers which flow into the lakes.