Durbin asks Obama to appoint carp czar or maye crap czar

Durbin asks Obama to appoint carp czar

June 25, 2010 8:17 PM | 18 Comments | UPDATED STORY

As concerns mount about the presence of Asian carp near Lake Michigan, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin today urged President Obama to appoint a carp czar to oversee efforts to keep the invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

“We need to have one person who coordinates the efforts of the federal, state and local agencies that are doing everything they can to keep the Asian carp out of Lake Michigan,” Durbin said during a news conference at the Shedd Aquarium. “We believe it’s absolutely essential.”

Durbin was responding to the discovery of a bighead carp, a variety of Asian carp, during routine sampling this week in Lake Calumet, just six miles from Lake Michigan. Standing beside environmental advocates who have championed closing Chicago-area locks as a way to prevent carp from entering Lake Michigan, Durbin called the finding a possible “game changer” and said “we have to take it very seriously.”

Durbin said scientists will try to determine where the carp came from, whether it was likely dumped there or whether it reached the lake by swimming up the Chicago water system. That’s a critical question as biologists try to figure out how many Asian carp may be lurking below the water’s surface.

Durbin said he plans to introduce a bill next week that will ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to look at “hydrologic separation” between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, a potentially massive engineering feat that would require severing the 100-year-old, man-made shipping corridors that now link the two waterways. Durbin expects the Army Corps to deliver its report within 18 months.

“This isn’t just a matter of the Asian carp, but any other invasive species that would find its way up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers into our Great Lakes ecosystem,” Durbin said.

Joel Hood

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