Talk about ironic. As we wait to see what the Supreme Court will do about the threat of invasive Asian carp entering the Great Lakes, I’m on my way to talk about the Great Lakes at a conference in Nanjing, China. The conference, put on by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environmental Forum, is about Lake Tai, China’s third largest lake, and how to address its pollution problems. I’ll be talking about the Great Lakes as a success story, highlighting the enactment of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Water Resources Compact and the development and funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. And of course, I’ll also be talking about invasive species – one in particular. I’ll try to avoid causing an international incident.
Before I begin posting about Lake Tai next week, today I wanted to return to the Asian carp problem here in the U.S. and our government’s response to it. As the legal briefs fly and the rhetoric heats up, I think it’s important to remember that every government agency involved in this process cares deeply about the Great Lakes and is exerting enormous efforts to keep the invasive carp out of the Great Lakes. We may disagree with their strategy or methods, but folks in the Obama Administration and the Illinois DNR have been pulling all-nighters through the holidays to try to get a handle on how to protect the lakes from the carp and we need to recognize that.
And we can’t lose sight of the fact that this Administration has already, in its first year, done more for the Great Lakes than any other in history, that President Obama is truly our first Great Lakes president, and that we’re in agreement with the Administration on virtually every other Great Lakes issue.
So let’s not fall into the trap of demonizing people we might disagree with, particularly here, where there are good people in Illinois and the federal agencies who are working very hard to address a really tough problem. Yes, I and others think that the evidence of the presence of carp in the Chicago canal system creates enormous risks to the Great Lakes and compels certain emergency and permanent actions – the temporary closing of the navigation locks and long-term separation of Lake Michigan from Mississippi River basin. And yes, the Administration and Illinois thus far have been unwilling to take those measures, and we support Michigan’s efforts in the Supreme Court to compel them to do so. We will continue to be clear about that. But this is a disagreement among friends who share common goals and we should act that way. The fact remains that this threat is likely to be resolved more quickly and completely through collaboration than conflict. So dialing down the rhetoric, keeping communication channels open, and maintaining strong relationships is more important now than ever.
On to China. I’ll see if I can a good bighead or silver carp recipe…