CLEVELAND (Jan. 16, 2014) -- At a public hearing in Cleveland, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur issued a call to action on the threat posed by Asian carp to the Great Lakes fishery and tourism industry.

“Lake Erie is our chief strategic advantage,” Congresswoman Kaptur said.  “The two biggest threats to our Lake Erie ecosystem are the harmful algal blooms and Asian carp.”

Congresswoman Kaptur said she recognized that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was trying to balance competing interests, but said the agency performed “a disservice to our region” by failing to make a recommendation for a strategy to prevent the carp invasion.

She called the invading fish “a clear and almost-present danger” and urged Corps leadership to adopt a greater sense of urgency.  

She told reporter Jeff St. Clair of WSKU-FM, “Chicago is home of the futures market where all the grain trading occurs, where all the grain moves south, and so you’ve got this confluence of interests, economic interests, and meanwhile you’ve got this fish swimming up the Mississippi, coming our way, and we have to solve this economic and ecological problem together.”

The Corps of Engineers recently released its long-awaited report on the status of the Asian carp, an aggressive invasive species that escaped from commercial fish farms in the South and has advanced north through the Mississippi River.

Lake Erie advocates fear that Asian carp could enter the Great Lakes chain through the Chicago canal system, potentially decimating the valuable lakes fishery.  

Congresswoman Kaptur spoke out forcefully for restoring the natural state by separating Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River watershed. Chicago officials long ago engineered a change in the course of the Chicago River so it could essentially serve as a sanitary sewer.

“We know that separation would be the most effective method to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes,” said Congresswoman Kaptur, who serves as ranking member on the Energy and Water subcommittee of House Appropriations.

She said the estimated cost of $18 billion should not doom the project, referring to the sums that have been spent on water projects around the country.  She said preventing the carp invasion by separating Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River is a needed investment in the Great Lakes region’s economic future.