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Durbin Joins Michigan In Fight Against Asian Carp

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Asian Carp

In concentrated numbers, the leaping Asian carp pose significant danger to boaters navigating the open rivers. But from a purely ecological standpoint, the non-native carp feed primarily on plankton and bacteria, collapsing the food chain. (Credit: CBS)

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WASHINGTON (WBBM/CBS) – Lawmakers are reaching across borders to keep Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has joined Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in introducing a bill that that would essentially light a fire under the Army Corps of Engineers, which is studying how to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports

The specific job is to fully separate the Mississippi River basin, where the carp are now, from the Great Lakes watershed, where the carp are not – yet – and do it without interrupting Chicago’s commercial shipping industry.

Right now, the Corps is studying the issue and aiming for a report in 2015 – four years hence. The bill would give the Army Corps just a year and a half to come up with a workable plan.

A Corps spokesman said, “The study can’t be accelerated. We must be open to all potential options.”

The Asian carp have been migrating northward in the Mississippi River and its tributaries for decades after escaping from Southern fish farms and sewage lagoons. The threat of their entry into the Great Lakes has touched off a legal dispute over whether to close shipping locks on Chicago waterways that could serve as doorways to Lake Michigan for the unwanted fish.

Silver and bighead carp are voracious eaters of plankton — tiny plants and animals at the base of the aquatic food chain. Biologists say if they become established in the Great Lakes, they could starve out competitors and threaten the $7 billion sport and commercial fishing industry.

Federal officials contend the electric barrier about 25 miles south of Lake Michigan is adequately thwarting the carp’s advance.

Michigan and four other states have sued in federal court to close the locks, a move resisted by barge operators and businesses that rely on cargo shipping in the Chicago area. The U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. District Judge Robert Dow last year denied requests to close the locks immediately, but the lawsuit is going forward.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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