The Asian carp controversy is once again teaching Chicagoans what the rest of the Midwest really thinks of us. Usually, our neighbors just call us FIPs, FIBs, or FISHTABs. But now five Great Lakes states -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania -- are suing to force us to close shipping locks in the Cal-Sag Channel and the Calumet River until we can come up with a plan to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan.
The lawsuit is aimed at the Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which oversee the region’s waterways. So far, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has fought off two lawsuits seeking to close the locks, but since then, a 20-pound carp has turned up in Lake Calumet, having breached an electronic barrier designed to keep it out. As Sonny Corleone could have told you, nothing sends a message like a big dead fish.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, the leading voice in the lawsuit, is making the Asian carp a partisan issue. Cox, who is running for governor, is blaming the Chicago Democrat in the White House for putting his city’s interests above those of the entire Great Lakes.
“President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers have failed to fight Asian carp aggressively,” Cox said. “Asian carp will kill jobs and ruin our way of life. We cannot afford more bureaucratic delays - emergency action must be taken to protect the Great Lakes.”
Around the Great Lakes, newspaper readers were even more pointed. Here’s a Detroit Free Press reader, suggesting that if Chicago can’t keep out Asian carp, it doesn’t deserve to operate a port:
The only reason for the channel is so Chicago can have a pretty little water front along the shores of Lake Michigan. If the industry is SOOO important to the Midwest and Illinois what is stopping them from creating ports in Lake Michigan to service the raw materials industry?
“WHAT COMES FIRST, MONEY OR SAVING THE GREAT LAKES?” wrote a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reader. “Common sense says, save the Great lakes. Chicago says money first, regardless of what the subject or consequences to nature.”
Unlike Michigan and Wisconsin, Ohio doesn’t have an insult for Illinoisans. So a Cleveland Plain Dealer reader came up with this constructive solution to the Asian carp infestation:
In the early 1900s, many states enacted bounties (usually about a dime) on rats, which were infesting bustling ports and burgeoning cities. Louisiana still pays citizens $4 for each dead nutria, a pest rodent, they bring in, and several states have put bounties on coyotes.
Federal and state wildlife officials in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River regions should consider implementing such a bounty on Asian carp, which already have decimated fish populations in rivers and threaten to enter our lakes soon.
Properly motivated (perhaps by $100 per fish?) local anglers could exterminate this invasive species, and possibly at a lower cost than some of the other solutions being considered.
That’s better than name calling. But now we know why we’re called FIPs. Unless we do something to stop the Asian carp, we’ll have earned that title.