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Published: Monday, 9/3/2012

EDITORIAL

Keep the carp out

More Asian carp DNA has turned up in Lake Erie. The latest discovery only accelerates the urgent need for Congress and the Obama Administration to push the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move faster to propose long-term solutions to the threat posed by the voracious fish.

Twenty of 150 water samples collected in early August from Lake Erie's Sandusky Bay included DNA of silver carp, the species of carp that captures attention by leaping into the air when scared by boat motors. It is one of four main species of Asian carp, and one of the two species that are the biggest threats to the Great Lakes region's $7 billion fishery.

The other is Asian bighead carp, which are larger and eat more. Bighead carp weigh upwards of 100 pounds. Asian carp disrupt the food chain and threaten to devour other species in the waterways they invade.

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The corps seems to have become so numb to the crisis that it isn't clear whether it will move any faster if samples drawn from the Maumee River and parts of western Lake Erie near Toledo come back positive when laboratory results arrive this month. That area is even a better spawning habitat than Sandusky Bay.

The Obama Administration has invested much time and effort in helping the President's home state of Illinois fend off efforts to suspend shipping in the Chicago Area Waterway System temporarily to address the carp threat. Otherwise, the region would be further ahead.

It's not known whether Lake Erie has Asian carp. If so, there's no way to know whether they arrived through the passageway that connects Lake Michigan to the carp-infested Mississippi River.

But area lawmakers who support a separation of the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds are right to keep pushing for that outcome. They're right to demand a stronger fortress at Fort Wayne's Eagle Marsh, to keep carp from entering the Maumee River during a spring flood.

Carp DNA can be transported into Lake Erie in the bilge water of freighters or other boats, via storm sewers, or by fish-eating birds. But the latest discovery suggests that previous identifications of bighead carp DNA in Sandusky Bay and silver carp DNA in North Maumee Bay were not flukes.

State and federal agencies, with help from conservation groups and universities, have canvassed the five Great Lakes since 2010. A study for the Great Lakes Commission concludes the two watersheds could be separated hydrologically for $9.5 billion -- less than the cost of some federal highway projects.

How much more carp DNA must be found throughout the Great Lakes region before the corps becomes more diligent about finally giving Congress its plan to repel the carp invasion?



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