U.S. House bill would separate Mississippi River, Great Lakes watersheds

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., introduced the Defending Against Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2014 as a solution to stop the spread of Asian carp to the Great Lakes.

The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Army to completely separate the hydrologic connection between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan, preventing the invasive species from invading the Great Lakes. If enacted, the legislation would require the Secretary to start designing the project within 180 days in consultation with important stakeholders including the governors of the surrounding states and the Great Lakes Commission. Once completed, the Secretary would have another 180 days to start construction.

Miller issued the following statement after introducing the bill:

“Over 100 years ago the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds were connected to assist the city of Chicago in dealing with their sewage problems.  That should never have been allowed to happen and certainly would never be allowed today.  The connection of these two watersheds creates many problems including the diversion of large amounts of Great Lakes water out of the Great Lakes basin and providing a route for invasive species like the Asian Carp to enter the Great Lakes.  This must end.

“The Asian carp threat is particularly troubling.  Over the last number of years these invaders have been migrating up the Mississippi River, destroying ecosystems along the entire route, and defying numerous actions taken to stop their advance.  Now, this invasive species threatens our precious Great Lakes – and if they are allowed to take hold they would cause untold economic harm and change our very way of life along the shores of the Great Lakes. 

“Completely separating the watersheds, an option presented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year, was identified by an independent study to be the most foolproof method of preventing these destructive invaders from entering our Great Lakes.  Unfortunately, the Corps indicated that they did not have the legal authority to build such a barrier. 

“Today, I introduced legislation that would give the Corps the authorization to design and construct a barrier that would completely separate the Mississippi River watershed from Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes basin because I believe total separation is the only way to make sure that Asian carp do not enter the Great Lakes. This project will require the buy in of stakeholders from across the country and significant resources, but we must have the political will to protect our magnificent Great Lakes.

“I’ve lived on the Great Lakes my entire life and understand the dire need to protect and preserve them now and for generations to come, which is why I hope my colleagues join me in this important effort. The future of the Great Lakes should not be held hostage to a century old mistake and the time to act is now.”

The bill, H.R. 4001, has no co-sponsors and was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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