Zoeller: Asian carp report ignores impact on Indiana
By HAYLEIGH COLOMBO The Associated Press January 10, 2014 10:58AM
Zoeller | Sun-Times Media file
Updated: February 12, 2014 6:10AM
LAFAYETTE — Did the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers snub Indiana’s Asian carp problem in its recent study highlighting options for controlling invasive species in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River?
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller thinks so.
The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study Report, released Monday, outlined concepts for controlling aquatic invasive species movement between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River.
“Seven years in the making, this report offers costly suggestions for the Chicago region and Great Lakes but very little that would address the impact of Asian carp on our iconic Wabash River and other Hoosier waterways,” Zoeller said.
“Having personally eye witnessed these invasive jumping carp that crowd out native fish and are a nuisance to boaters, and having met with concerned constituents in our river communities, I know that there needs to be more focus on current efforts to control Asian carp with the goal of eventual eradication in our waterways.”
The Wabash River, where bighead and silver Asian carp feed and have a role in starving out native species, is not specifically mentioned in the more than 200-page report, the Journal & Courier reported.
Additionally, none of the meetings at which the Army Corps of Engineers will take public comment is in Indiana. Meetings are taking place near Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., Traverse City and Ann Arbor, Mich., and St. Louis.
“The report offers no help to Indiana,” said Zoeller, who traveled to the Chicago meeting Thursday to share his concerns. “To add insult to injury, they don’t even have a public meeting in Indiana.”
Dave Wethington, an Army Corps of Engineers project manager who worked on the Great Lakes report, said he was disappointed to hear about Zoeller’s frustration. Wethington pointed out that the report highlights specific work that the Army Corps has been involved in at Eagle Marsh in Fort Wayne.
“I’m sorry that he feels that way,” Wethington said. “In my opinion, the attorney general’s comment is unfair because we have dedicated significant resources to the issue at Eagle Marsh.”
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has identified Eagle Marsh as a potential route for Asian carp to move from the Wabash River system into a Lake Erie tributary, Maumee River, under flooding conditions.
Wethington said the report did not put more focus on Indiana because the Army Corps received authorization from Congress for a report focused on the Great Lakes and Mississippi River in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.
“We were following congressional direction in creating the report to focus on Chicago-area waterways,” Wethington said. “We refer the readers of the report to our website, where there’s some excellent information about (controlling invasive species) outside, specifically for Eagle Marsh.”
Zoeller said he believes the state of Indiana should receive federal dollars or assistance in trying to curtail the Asian carp invasion in the Wabash River.
Asian carp were introduced to the waterways in the southern United States to clear aquaculture ponds, according to the DNR, but escaped into the Mississippi River in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then they’ve expanded their territory into nearly 15 states.
“It’s not something that Indiana caused, but I think it’s appropriate we look for some federal help for a problem not of our making,” Zoeller said.
Wethington acknowledged “there very well may be a role for federal dollars in Indiana problems.”
“It’s probably much more efficient to take care of it at a state and local level,” he said. “Sure, it can become a federal program, but does that make the most sense?”
Even though the Army Corps skipped Indiana for a public meeting, the Army Corps team is going to meet Friday with members of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Gov. Mike Pence’s office.
“I respect the fact that the state of Indiana is concerned,” Wethington said, “but it comes down to making the most of limited resources.”
Meanwhile, Zoeller said he hopes that more people join him in requesting federal attention to Indiana’s Asian carp problem.
“We all can agree we’d like to keep them out of the Great Lakes, but what about our current problems?” Zoeller said. “I really hope there will be more people joining our frustration that we can’t get some federal attention to this.”