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Published: Thursday, 9/20/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

New flash points added in Ohio's battle to keep Asian carp out of Erie

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

While the barge canal near Chicago is widely viewed as the area most likely to be breached in the war being waged to stop the movement of Asian carp toward the Great Lakes, other potential flash points have been identified.

The recently released Great Lakes Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) named two waterways in northeast Ohio as part of an extensive list of sites that could provide the carp or other invasive species with a link to Lake Erie from the Mississippi River system, where the carp are widespread.

Little Killbuck Creek in Medina County and the Ohio & Erie Canal near Akron are viewed as "medium risk" pathways by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but those were just two of 18 possible routes outside of Chicago that the study pinpointed, stretching from western New York state's East Mud Lake in Chautauqua to the Swan River in northern Minnesota.

Identifying potential pathways the carp could take to reach the Great Lakes, and specific actions to close those routes, will help Ohio and the other Great Lakes state address the threat before it reaches the eleventh hour, according to Rich Carter, executive administrator of fish management and research for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

"This is a preemptive strike," Carter said. "It is important that we close all potential routes from the Mississippi River system to the Great Lakes, to not only keep out the Asian carp, but also any other invasive species we might encounter in the future."

The Corps first solicited input from state agencies and other interested parties, conducted site visits and held discussions with the entities responsible for fish and wildlife management and water resource management in the eight states that border the Great Lakes.

The data produced by the study indicated that the Ohio & Erie Canal near Akron was potentially a connection since it is linked to the Portage Lakes system, and flows into the Cuyahoga River, which in turn dumps into Lake Erie. Should the carp reach Long Lake, they could use the canal as a possible pathway. The study suggested that structural alterations be considered to eliminate the risk at the site.

Another potential connection point in Ohio labeled as "medium risk" is near Lodi and Interstate 71, southwest of Medina. In that region, flood waters from Little Killbuck Creek, which is part of the Ohio River drainage system, could mingle with the flow that connects to the Black River, which moves north to Lake Erie.

"Now that the Army Corps has conducted a detailed study and we have the information in hand," Carter said, "it is up to us to work with the property owners and government agencies to address these areas."

Asian carp, specifically the bighead and silver carp that are present in the Ohio River, are still a considerable distance away from the newly identified risk sites, but the fish have demonstrated an ability to spread rapidly during periods of high water, and have already dominated large sections of the Mississippi River drainage.

Asian carp were brought to this country in the 1970s to help control algae growth in fish rearing ponds and for use in wastewater treatment. They escaped those facilities during floods, and have been steadily advancing up the Mississippi River system.

The carp, which can grow to 100 pounds and five feet in length, are filter feeders that can consume 20 percent or more of their body weight per day in tiny plankton -- algae and other microscopic organisms. They compete with certain native fish for food, disrupting the food web, and have no natural predators.

Asian carp in huge numbers have advanced up the Illinois River and some carp are now within about 38 miles of Lake Michigan, where the Army Corps maintains an electrical barrier designed to keep the fish away from the Great Lakes. On the Ohio River, they continue to push up the waterway and recently there have been a number of confirmed reports of Asian carp around Greenup Dam, near Portsmouth.

CONTEST WINNER: A photo snapped at the Manor House at Wildwood Metropark turned out to be the winning entry in a contest sponsored by The Nature Conservancy that urged entrants to visit as many of Ohio's natural areas as possible and photograph their travels.

The "Natural Treasures of Ohio" sweepstakes received more that 3,000 photo entries from more than 800 Ohio residents, many of whom visited all 30 of the selected sites and uploaded photos that were self-portraits shot at a designated landmark in each location.

Bill Wilson of Troy had his photo taken at the Manor House site, and it was randomly selected as the winner. Wilson won a 2012 Honda Insight hybrid, donated by Honda of America. Tamara Dieringer of Toledo was one of five second place winners who received $500 REI gift cards.

WING WATCH: A reminder that the Lake Erie Wing Watch festival for birders is this weekend, with a wide range of activities for children and families taking place at locations throughout the region. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, and both South Bass Island and Kelleys Island will host events connected to the Wing Watch. For a full schedule and details on the events, call 419-898-0960 or visit LakeErieWingWatch.com.

TRAPPING PERMITS: Controlled beaver and/or river otter trapping opportunities on 75 wildlife areas, state parks and other publicly managed lands in Ohio will be awarded through a system of random drawings. The application period runs through Oct. 15. Applicants may apply online or print an application and mail it in along with all fees. Applications are also available at ODNR district offices.

The application fee is $3 per event and trappers may apply for each event once annually. Duplicate applications will be disqualified and fees forfeited. Independent drawings will be held for each event and all applications must be submitted in the name of an adult that holds a current hunting license. Results of the permit drawing will be available by mid-November. Applicants will be notified by U.S. mail, and each applicant can check their customer account online to view lottery results.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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