For years, ever since they escaped from catfish farms in Arkansas, two species of Asian carp have been migrating up the Mississippi River.
Bighead carp, which can weigh as much as 100 pounds, are voracious eaters, reducing or eliminating native species by gobbling up all the food in sight. Silver carp are not quite as large, but are jumpers that have damaged boats and severely injured people.
If either species gets established in the Great Lakes, that could ruin the lakes’ fishing, recreational, and boating industries and cost the economy billions of dollars. Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a report on the carp problem that disappointed virtually everybody. Asked by Congress to come up with solutions, the corps listed eight options but recommended none of them.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (R., Mich.) has introduced a bill that would require the corps to take immediate action to close off the series of canals that connect the Mississippi River with the Great Lakes, which were dug more than a century ago. Illinois and Indiana politicians oppose the measure, instead defending barge and shipping interests whose bottom line could be hurt if they had to move their cargo overland.
They have a point. But their inconvenience would be minor compared to the economic loss the nation would suffer — forever — if Asian carp establish themselves in the world’s most important supply of freshwater.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat, hasn’t formally endorsed Representative Miller’s bill. But Miss Kaptur has repeatedly urged faster action, saying separation of the lakes from the Mississippi River “would be the most effective method to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes.”
Both lawmakers are right. Ms. Miller’s bill deserves swift consideration before it really is too late.