Senate approves amendment to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate approved an amendment to the 2003 federal spending bill Thursday that will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue operating an electric barrier that keeps Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., passed by voice vote and now will be addressed in a joint committee with the House.

The temporary $2.2 million barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which connects the Mississippi and Chicago rivers, was turned on in April to control another nuisance fish called the round goby. It was scheduled to be removed after 18 months.

The amendment sets aside $500,000 to keep the barrier in operation.

DeWine plans to introduce a separate bill in the Senate that would make the barrier permanent and possibly add another barrier to the waterway.

Leaders of the International Joint Commission, a Canadian-American authority that regulates waters on the countries' border, say a second, similar barrier should be installed in the canal as a backup.

The barrier, which is a series of cables under the canal, sends a low-level charge to the fish that repels them so they turn around instead of swimming into Lake Michigan, which is about 25 miles away.

The Asian carp, which can grow to 100 pounds and four feet long, threatens the plankton food supply of paddlefish, gizzard shad, bigmouth buffalo and other filter feeders. They also compete with larval and juvenile fish and mussels. The fish can eat up to half their body weight a day in plankton, leaving little food for other fish.

Arkansas fish farmers imported the Asian carp from China in the 1970s to improve water quality in their pens. Some escaped and began appearing in the Mississippi River in the 1990s.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)