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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No need to re-plumb MN and WI to stop Asian carp

What a mess Asian carp would make of this treasure: the Lower Wisconsin Riverway.

Rat has harped -- or should I say, "carped" -- on this before. It's about the inattention paid to the threat of Asian carp invading the upper reaches of the Mississippi River basin -- meaning great Wisconsin rivers like the St. Croix, Black, Chippewa and Wisconsin.

It's in sharp contrast to all the attention paid -- in a recent instance, $2 million of attention -- to how to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. (The Asian invaders are far likelier to find a path to Wisconsin via the Mississippi than via Lake Michigan.) A group of private foundations bankrolled a study to see how the Chicago canal and related stormwater and sewage systems would have to be re-plumbed. The study was released today (January 31).

At first glance, this report is great work: it details plans and their costs to separate the basins to minimize the spread of invasive creatures between the two basins.

It exposes two other things: how excruciatingly slow the Corps of Engineers is in doing the same work (their own study of the issue is more comprehensive, but won't be completed until 2015), and shows how desperately we need a similar investment for the upper reaches of the Mississippi River.

Minnesota's natural resources department has put more effort to this question than its Wisconsin counterpart, but you get a sense from both agencies of contradictory positions: that either Asian carp are inevitable, or that because a few strays have been found in our border waters for years doesn't mean there will be an infestation (i.e. no evidence that they're breeding).

You gotta wonder how a couple million dollars of intense and serious study might clarify this question. Rat's not sure where such money is lying around, but the first step has to be making a case for it.

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