Senators express serious concerns over the timeline for implementing permanent measures to combat invasive carp
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a vice-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and a bipartisan group of other Great Lakes senators have sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raising alarm over the delay in finalizing the Brandon Road Study, a critical action-plan for keeping invasive carp from reaching the Great Lakes.
“It is imperative that the USACE meet the original timeline for completing the Chief’s Report by January 2019,” wrote the senators. “The USACE initiated the Brandon Road Study in April 2015 after the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin Study identified the Brandon Road Lock & Dam as a location to control the movement of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes.”
“USACE has indicated that implementing the recommended measures in the TSP is unlikely before 2025,” the senators continued. “This timeline is particularly concerning given recent findings that demonstrated new ways for Asian Carp to enter the Great Lakes…This past June, an eight pound Silver Carp made its way up the Illinois River, beyond the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, and was found above the electric barrier – just nine miles from Lake Michigan.”
In addition to Klobuchar, the letter was signed by Task Force members Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
As one of the vice-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, Klobuchar is a leader in helping to fight the spread of invasive carp. When the Administration delayed the February 2017 release of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Brandon Road Project Tentatively Selected Plan to prevent invasive carp from reaching the Great Lakes, Klobuchar and a group of Great Lakes Senators pressed the Administration to release the draft proposal without delay. The study, which Klobuchar pushed for, is critical to stopping the flow of invasive carp and other invasive species.
Klobuchar authored a provision to help keep invasive carp out of Minnesota’s waterways by closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock within one year of enactment. The provision passed as part of the Water Resources and Development Act in May 2014 and the lock was closed on June 9, 2015. Last September, several of Klobuchar’s key priorities passed the Senate as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. The bipartisan bill included her provision to provide critical resources and funding to conserve fish and wildlife population in the Great Lakes, and priorities that require the use of American iron and steel in all projects funded through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and establish a voluntary school and child care lead testing program, among others. She has also worked to bolster pollution clean-up efforts in the Great Lakes, prevent diversions of Great Lakes water out of the region, and establish new water conservation and environmental protection standards in the Great Lakes area. In 2012, Klobuchar worked to pass the bipartisan Stop Invasive Species Act, which required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to present Congress with a report on potential strategies to help prevent invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes. After the Army Corps released the report in 2014, Klobuchar called on the Army Corps to implement short-term measures to help keep invasive carp out of the Great Lakes and move aggressively toward a long-term solution.
The full text of the senators’ letter is below.
Dear Acting Secretary McCarthy,
As Senators representing Great Lakes states, we write to share our views on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) draft Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) for the Brandon Road Study.
First, it is imperative that the USACE meet the original timeline for completing the Chief’s Report by January 2019. The USACE initiated the Brandon Road Study in April 2015 after the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin Study (GLMRIS) identified the Brandon Road Lock & Dam as a location to control the movement of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes. The USACE provided a 46-month timeline to complete Brandon Road Study, with an interim step of releasing the Tentatively Selected Plan by January 2017. This was already longer than the 3x3x3 rule enacted in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (P. L. 113-121), in which feasibility studies must result in a final report in three years or less. Despite the six-month delay in the release of the TSP, we fully expect the USACE to complete its Chief’s Report by January 2019. Secondly, we ask that you provide us an update on the timeline for completion of the Chief’s Report
Thirdly, USACE has indicated that implementing the recommended measures in the TSP is unlikely before 2025. This timeline is particularly concerning given recent findings that demonstrated new ways for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes. Field studies conducted in recent years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that small fish – including Asian Carp – can become entrained between barges and transported safely through the electric dispersal barriers near Romeoville, Illinois – located approximately 25 miles from Lake Michigan. Moreover, this past June, an eight pound Silver Carp made its way up the Illinois River, beyond the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, and was found above the electric barrier – just nine miles from Lake Michigan.
While waterway shipping is important to the economies of the Great Lakes states, it is also essential that we prevent the devastating impacts that would occur if Asian Carp invade the Great Lakes. Studies have shown those impacts would include declines in native fish species and a one-third reduction of total fish weight in Lake Erie. This threatens the Great Lakes’ world-class $7 billion/year fishing industry, $16 billion/year recreational boating industry, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs these industries support.
We appreciate the USACE’s recognition that controlling the movement of aquatic invasive species such as Asian Carp is necessary, and we look forward to hearing from you on your commitment to complete the Chief’s Report by January 2019.
Thank you for your consideration of our request. We ask that this letter be included in the formal record of comments for the draft report.