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Published: Sunday, 7/15/2007

Agency takes steps to rein in Asian carp

The inevitable rhetoric over tighter smog controls got cranked up in Washington this week. Closer to home, Toledo and other Great Lakes cities agreed to conserve 15 percent more water by 2015.

The region's vast potential for jobs in the renewable energy sector was reiterated. And, for the first time, the impact of its recreational boating was quantified at a staggering $16 billion.

Best of all: The molasses-like wheels of bureaucracy finally caught up with big fish that can make men cry.

Under the powers of the federal Lacey Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned live imports and interstate transport of silver Asian carp.

Those are the most notorious of four Asian carp species, voracious eaters capable of growing up to 85 pounds.

They're also ultra-sensitive to boat vibrations. A TV network once ran footage of a silver Asian carp that flopped out of the water and smacked an unsuspecting male boater in, well, the place he least would want to get smacked by an 85-pound fish.

Asian carp were first imported years ago by Arkansas fish hatcheries to eat pond scum. Many escaped as a result of the 1993 Mississippi River floods. Since then, it's been a fight to keep them and their descendants from completing their swim up the Mighty Miss and making their way over to Lake Michigan via Illinois streams.

Should that happen, they'd wreak havoc upon Great Lakes fish. And terrorize more boaters.

Several congressmen petitioned the Fish & Wildlife Service in 2002 to use the Lacey Act against silver Asian carp and two other species, the bighead carp and black carp. The fate of the latter two is unknown. A fourth type of Asian carp, the grass carp, wasn't included in the 2002 petition because that fish already existed in most states.

The process is long and arduous because the government, in effect, is being asked to blacklist something by euphemistically declaring it an "injurious species."

Smog: Senate subcommittee hearings began on the always-contentious federal EPA rule for ground-level ozone, the pollutant that drives up smog. It's the first major review of the standard since 1997, even though it's supposed to be done once every five years.

Predictably, the National Association of Manufacturers - headed by former Michigan Gov. John Engler - wants to minimize impact on industry, while groups such as the American Lung Association argue that the latest proposal falls short of protecting public health. U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) let reporters know he has "serious concerns" about the standard being tightened.

Water, jobs, and recreation: Toledo was one of nine U.S. municipalities joining 20 in Canada in a pledge to reduce water consumption 15 percent by 2015. The agreement was made at the fourth annual gathering of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which met in Grand Rapids, Mich.

A Union of Concerned Scientists report, issued by Environment Ohio and Environment Michigan, claimed that 185,000 new jobs could be created nationally if Congress passes a proposed federal mandate for states to get at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The groups are trying to bolster their case for standards at both the state and national levels.

Finally, the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Commission, empowered by the states to help them on regional policy matters, quantified for the first time the enormous impact of the recreational boating industry. Its report stated that the region's 4.3 million registered boats generate $16 billion for the region and directly support 107,000 jobs.



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