By JOHN FLESHER, AP Environmental Writer
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- Federal engineers would be ordered to speed up development of a plan for protecting the Great Lakes from Asian carp under legislation awaiting final votes in Congress.
The measure would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to produce an expedited strategy for preventing species migrations between the lakes and the Mississippi River watershed at 18 potential entry points, including a network of Chicago-area rivers and canals.
House and Senate negotiators attached the provision to a highway funding bill on which both chambers are expected to vote by the end of June. Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican and member of the conference committee, said the amendment was "an important step to stop Asian carp from devastating the Great Lakes ecosystem."
The Army corps previously said it needed until late 2015 to finish studying the matter. But in May, Obama administration officials said a plan would be ready by the end of next year -- similar to the deadline envisioned by the legislation.
However, the administration plan would simply present a list of options for Congress and the public to consider. The measure proposed by Camp and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, would require more detailed proposals -- including steps to sever a manmade link between the Lake Michigan and Mississippi drainage basins at Chicago.
"Temporary fixes have proven inadequate and this dangerous invasive species is now on the Great Lakes' doorstep," Stabenow said.
Officials with the Army corps and the White House Council on Environmental Quality declined comment on the measure.
Asian carp have migrated up the Mississippi and tributary rivers and could reach Lake Michigan through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Some scientists and state officials fear the voracious, aggressive carp would damage the Great Lakes' $7 billion fishing industry by starving out species already there.
A federal lawsuit by Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania also demands quicker action by the Army corps.