By Lee Bergquist
The Journal Sentinel
July 8, 2010

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and that state’s attorney general, Richard Cordray, called Wednesday for immediate construction of a physical barrier in the Calumet River in Illinois to fight the threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes.

The two Democrats asked President Barack Obama’s administration to host an emergency summit by July 19 to develop a strategy and timetable to build a barrier in the river between Lake Calumet and Lake Michigan.

They also called on Obama to appoint a new position designated to preserving the Great Lakes and with the authority to manage the invasive fish across many agencies and states.

Strickland and Cordray called for someone of the caliber and reputation of environmentalists Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Cordray asked his fellow attorneys general in the Great Lakes region to join the Ohio officials.

A spokesman for Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen could provide no immediate response Wednesday to Ohio’s plea.

But Van Hollen’s office noted that he had asked the U.S. Supreme Court months ago to close to lakeside navigational locks where the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal and the Calumet-Sag Channel flow into Lake Michigan.

Gov. Jim Doyle has pushed for months for closing the canal as one way to slow the spread of invasive fish into the Great Lakes. Attempts to obtain a comment from his office and the Department of Natural Resources were not successful.

For years, there have been reports of the gradual movement of the destructive carp into Lake Michigan. Last month, a 3-foot Asian carp was found six miles from the lake near the Illinois-Indiana border.

The fish are filter feeders and eat vast amounts of plankton. Scientists and officials believe that could upend the lakes’ multibillion-dollar ecosystem.

Wisconsin joined other Great Lakes states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court for a preliminary injunction to close the locks on a temporary basis, but the court on Jan. 19 refused to order an immediate closing.

Environmental groups including the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes have pushed for quick action to slow the carp’s spread toward Lake Michigan.

The Ohio officials said that chemical and electric barriers aren’t sufficient to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

They also called for an alternative mode of transportation and storm water between the lakes and the Mississippi River that would not allow invasive species to move between the two systems.