December 11, 2009

Gillibrand Urges Feds To Temporarily Close Chicago Locks To Ensure Asian Carp Do Not Invade NYS Waterways

Also Announces Committee Passage of New Legislation to Prevent Importing, Shipping Invasive Species

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today urged the federal government to temporarily close the O'Brien and Chicago Locks as a temporary management solution to stop the spread of Asian Carp making their way into the Great Lakes and toward New York's waterways.  Senator Gillibrand also announced EPW Committee passage of the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act, which would prohibit importing and shipment of the invasive species.

"The Asian Carp pose a traumatic and long term threat to the Great Lakes and the enormous economic benefit the lakes provide to New York and the nation," Senator Gillibrand. "The lakes help drive our economy, draw tourism, offer endless recreation and provide drinking water for millions of families. The Asian Carp could potentially destroy all of that, disrupting the food chain and disturbing the natural ecosystem permanently. We need to take aggressive action now to stop the spread of Asian Carp and establish a long term solution that will keep New York's waterways and natural habitats free from invasive species."

Senator Gillibrand called on the federal government to take immediate and bold action to stop this mounting threat. In her letter to the Department of the Army, Environmental Protection Agency, Coast Guard, and Fish and Wildlife Services, Senator Gillibrand wrote, "I encourage you to exercise all available options to ensure this threat is muted.  I urge you to close the O'Brian and Chicago Locks if there is reasonable evidence that Asian Carp have migrated above the barrier, continue the application of fish poison as a temporary management solution, and consider the possibility of permanent hydrological separation of the Great Lakes and the Canal. At a minimum, these efforts should include increased monitoring and sampling to map where Asian Carp are present, continued strategic application of rotenone as a short term management strategy, and changes in the way the locks at CSSC are operated.  I believe that temporarily sealing this waterway as we analyze the situation at hand and decide on a long term management strategy is a reasonable course of action."

Asian Carp are large, prolific and consume vast amounts of food - weighing up to 100 pounds and ranging as long as four feet - disrupting the food chain that supports native fish. Their large size, ravenous appetites and rapid rate of reproduction pose a significant threat to New York's ecosystem. This aggressive invasive species could destroy the Great Lakes fish populations, devastating the $7 billion recreational fishing industry, tourism industry and the general economic well being of the entire region.  

The economy and the ecosystem of the entire Great Lakes region are at risk because of the imminent threat of the invasive Asian Carp. Current efforts to control the spread of Asian Carp include two electrical barriers around Chicago where the Mississippi River links to the Great Lakes.  However, these efforts have fallen short, as illustrated by evidence indicating that Asian Carp may have migrated past the electrical barrier.  The DNA evidence found implies that the Asian Carp may now be as close as 6 miles from Lake Michigan, 20 miles closer than previously thought.  The invasion of Asian Carp into Lake Michigan is significant, since at that point they will have the ability to migrate to all of the Great Lakes.

In addition, Senator Gillibrand announced that the bipartisan Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act, passed the EPW Committee today.  This legislation would crack down on the importation and shipment of the bighead species of carp to help stop their spread throughout New York waterways, and help restore the natural order of our ecosystem.