Several environmental groups are sounding the alarm after Asian carp DNA was recently detected "just yards from Lake Michigan."
The results of eDNA sampling data -- collected in October by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- were released earlier this month and "show the presence of bighead or silver carp DNA throughout the Chicago Area Waterway System," according to a news release from the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation, the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club and other organizations.
"Most alarming is detection of carp DNA very near the lock in downtown Chicago -- less than one city block from Lake Michigan," the groups stressed.
Last January, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a study to Congress detailing ways to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from taking over the Great Lakes. Some of those efforts could cost billions of dollars and take decades to finish.
The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) provides decision makers with various strategies to prevent at least 13 invasive species, including bighead and silver carp, from moving between the basins of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, where Asian carp prominently reside.
Since the report was issued, the Chicago Area Waterway System Advisory Committee has been discussing short- and long-term Asian carp solutions with regional stakeholders. According to the environmental groups, the "advisory committee is working toward a deadline of December 15, 2015" to reach a consensus on prevention measures.
The groups -- which also include Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ohio Environmental Council, Prairie Rivers Network, and Save the River/Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper -- are recommending several "immediate risk-reduction steps" that can be taken to address the problem of invasive species, including:
* Design of a new engineered channel to be constructed in the approach to the Brandon Road lock, a potentially effective location for reducing one-way movement of species towards the Great Lakes;
* Evaluation, engineering, and design of control technologies to deploy in the approach channel and the Brandon Road lock structure; and
* Research to further evaluate reconfiguring locks as a means to control aquatic invasive species while maintaining the health of native aquatic life and habitat.
"DNA evidence is an early detection tool to understand the potential movement of carp, and testing results have consistently found DNA hits on a path closer and closer to the Great Lakes over the past several years of testing," the groups explain. "We cannot afford to wait until a breeding population shows up in the Chicago River. Prevention needs to happen now, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other key decisionmakers should take swift action."