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Asian carp DNA hits take a leap

DNA evidence of Asian carp beyond the electrical barrier designed to keep them out of Lake Michigan “appears to have grown ten-fold over the last year,” reports Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

One day of sampling this spring yield positive results in 15 percent of samples taken, compared to postive results in 1.5 percent of samples taken last year.  Most of the positive hits were in Lake Calumet.

The Army Corps of Engineers argues that the DNA material could be transported by a variety of means, but scientists say the overall pattern of positive results over three years “is powerful evidence that at least some live fish are swimming above the barrier,” Egan reports.

Meanwhile the Corps is undertaking a five-year study evaluating a wide range of options – “from doing nothing to inventing new poisons to experimenting with music, sound guns, and bubbles underwater,” according to Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Corps also identified scores of invasive species that could infest the Great Lakes or the Mississippi River system via the Chicago waterway system, including nearly 50 that are impervious to the electical barrier.

Authorized in 2007 and funded in 2009, the study wasn’t started until November 2010.  The Corps recently said its release, expected in 2015, could be delayed further.

Senators Richard Durbin and Debbie Stabenow have introduced legislation mandating that the Corps complete its work within 18 months, but it hasn’t moved in Congress.

Noting that the electric barrier is also susceptible to power outages, Henderson writes, “The Corps needs to get serious about the hard work of figuring out how to install a permanent physical barrier into the system that addresses legitimate commercial concerns while finally stopping the movement of all invasive species between the Mississippi River system and Great Lakes, not just the big bad Asian carp.”

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Category: environment, Lake Michigan

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