Illinois and federal officials announced plans Wednesday to again dump fish poison into a Chicago-area waterway to help them determine whether the invasive Asian carp has come any closer to the Great Lakes.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of about a dozen lawmakers from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin continued to pressure congressional leaders to bring up for quick action their legislative proposal that would force the closure of locks between the waterway and Lake Michigan.
"We're talking about a $7 billion recreational fishing industry, a $16 billion recreational boating industry and, frankly, our way of life,'' Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said at a Capitol news conference.
Illinois politicians argue closing the locks could prove too costly to industries that rely on area shipping.
The plans announced Wednesday involve using the fish toxin rotenone in a stretch of the Calumet-Sag Channel that links Lake Michigan and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, to find out whether there are any Asian carp in an area where positive carp DNA samples have been found.
A similar mass fish poisoning was conducted in the canal in December, when no carp were found. Officials say rotenone kills carp and other fish but poses no risk to people or other wildlife when properly used. The poison will be applied about a mile downstream from the lock and dam May 20, and a stretch of the waterway will be closed for about five or six days.
"These new monitoring efforts will help us make the most strategic decisions for keeping Asian carp from becoming established in the Great lakes," said Charlie Wooley, deputy regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "The new monitoring plan will provide the quantitative information necessary to determine the most successful control methods for Asian carp, if they are present in the area."
Proponents of legislation that would require the Army Corps of Engineers to close the lock, at least temporarily, said they were pleased the Obama administration was moving in what they consider to be the right direction.
"Obviously, there is much more we need to do," Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said. "We'd like to see established additional barriers, reinforcing the barriers and closing the locks temporarily, taking into account the economic hardship that may happen as a result of that, as well as any potential flooding and other natural causes that would occur."
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said he and other lawmakers would be willing to work with members of the Illinois congressional delegation to reach an agreement on how to deal with the economic impact of closing locks.
"We know it has an impact," he said. "We want to help through that impact."
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's second-highest ranking Democrat, has concluded closing the locks is "not the best solution -- for Illinois or the region," according to spokeswoman Christina Mulka.
"He supports the Obama administration's approach and has consistently advocated working with federal, state and local officials to find a comprehensive solution that will protect the Great Lakes, while preserving jobs and promoting economic activity in the region," Mulka added.
The Obama administration in February announced a $78.5 million carp control plan that rejected lock closure.
Not a single carp has turned up thus far, although scientists say they have detected genetic material from the carp in waterways past an electronic barrier, which is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Lake Michigan, and even in the lake itself.