WASHINGTON, DC, December 14, 2009 (ENS) – The federal government will spend an additional $13 million to prevent invasive Asian carp from migrating further toward the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified more than $13 million in funding needs for measures to deter the large fish from moving closer to Lake Michigan. The majority of the new funds will be used to close conduits and shore up low-lying lands between the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal and adjacent waterways.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, who also chairs the Great Lakes Inter-agency Task Force, announced the new funding today.

“The challenge at hand requires the immediate action we’re taking today. EPA and its partners are stepping up to prevent the environmental and economic destruction that can come from invasive Asian carp,” said Jackson.

The presence of Asian carps in the Great Lakes could cause what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls “catastrophic declines” in abundances of native fish species, cause economic impacts to sport and commercial fisheries, and result in injuries to boaters as the big fish are known to jump out of the water as high as 10 feet.

DNA evidence suggests the Asian carp are already very close to an electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal built to keep them out. Scientists believe carp are also present in the Des Plaines River, the I & M canal and the Calumet Sag Canal.

President Barack Obama has made restoring the Great Lakes a national priority, Jackson said. In February, he proposed $475 million for a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an unprecedented investment in the nation’s largest fresh surface water ecosystem.

Congress approved that funding level and President Obama signed it into law in October. The funding for immediate carp control measures would come from that $475 million.

“President Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Congressional support have given us what we need to significantly and immediately reduce the risk of Asian carp reaching the Great Lakes and destroying such a valuable ecosystem,” Jackson said.

Asian carps can consume 40 percent of their body weight in food daily. An abundance of Asian carps will result in competition for food with native species, which are eaten by predator fishes such as lake trout and walleye.

Under the conditions found in the Great Lakes such as water temperature and food abundance, Asian carps could outnumber all other native species, as already is happening in parts of Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

The potential impact of Asian carps on the Great Lakes sport and commercial fishing industry can be seen right now along the Mississippi River basin. There in just a few years after Asian carp were introduced into the area, many commercial fishing locations have been abandoned, as native fish have nearly disappeared from the catch, replaced by Asian carp.

Illinois and federal agencies remain concerned that during times of heavy precipitation, water and carp can wash from adjacent waterways into the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal.

On December 3, the Asian Carp Rapid Response Workgroup announced that a bighead Asian carp was found in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal just above the Lockport Lock and Dam. This is the first physical specimen that has been found in the canal since eDNA testing earlier this year suggested the presence of Asian carp in the area.

“This is clearly a significant find in this operation that validates why it is so important for this work to be done,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Assistant Director John Rogner. “We will continue to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and our partners on maintaining the integrity of the area around the barrier.”

Biologists working with the Asian Carp Rapid Response Workgroup applied the fish-killing chemical Rotenone December 2 on a 5.7 mile stretch of the canal. Rotenone application was chosen as the best option of keeping Asian carp from breaching the electric barrier while it was taken down for scheduled routine maintenance. The bighead was found during this work.

Maintenance on the electric barrier was completed and the barrier was returned to operation December 4.

Initiative funding will support work by the Corps to reduce the risk of carp invasion. Some of the funding will support more genetic testing to pinpoint where carp may be in the Chicago Area Waterway System. The agencies will continue to identify other mechanisms for keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

Today’s announcement follows a November 23 announcement that a portion of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding will be available for stakeholders through a request for proposals.

Click here to view the RFP online. Invasive species controls are a priority under the initiative.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.