Last weekend found me and four of my cronies in New Orleans for no particular reason. Nothing to do and an entire long weekend to do it it. We managed to fill our time with a trip the the historic Fairgrounds horse track, dining at two classics, Paul Prudhomme's K-Pauls, and Emeril LaGasse's NOLA, a trip to the National WW II museum, and successfully cheering the Packers to a big win. We also had a couple beers along the way. How my bro-in-law came into possession of the snare drum and hat, and the preceding and subsequent events that caused him to be leading a parade through the French Quarter, will have to remain shrouded in mystery. Given my trip prep, it did seem fitting that we were at the origin of the Asian carp's accidental introduction to the Mississippi River system since one of the last things that I did before heading to New Orleans was to testify at the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) on the U of M campus. New Orleans chefs should pay attention; the takeaway from local jounalists in the Twin Cities seemed to be that if we just ate more carp the problem would go away.
It was kind of a disappointing turnout at the hearing. There were chairs for about 75 people and about 25 showed up. Many were from organizations such as the Izaak Walton League and National Wildlife Federation but not many interested private citizens. We had to give our name, zip code, and any organizations we were affiliated with. I threw out SKOAC and Inland Sea Kayakers but assured the panel that both organizations would be horrified if they thought I was speaking for them. Sorry guys, both organizations are now probably on some government subversive list now. The panel consisted of high level bureaucrats and Army Corp of Engineers brass. The one guy I knew and had skewered on this very blog, the Asian Carp Czar, Mr. John Goss himself, was at the podium. Only seven of us testified and only two were representing themselves, a weak turnout on this issue at the very best.
I listened to the scope of the study, what had been done so far, and what the tentative plan was. As a couple people pointed out, they had moved with blinding speed using the federal bureaucrat Beyer speed ratings (OK, I'm still excited about winning a few bucks at the track Friday....they don't really publish Beyers on bureaucrats). By any normal speed standards however, especially procreating carp standards, the pace was glacial. The image below of a memo, obtained and published by the Milwaukee journal and dated 1975, underscores that. Still, a combination of hearing what had been done so far and my personal gutlessness about savaging the carp czar to his face, made me tone down my comments. Just a bit. Like 100% of the people I called for closing the Chicago locks and physical separation of the two watersheds, actually beginning the require treatment of ballast water, and a disappointment that the study would take until 2015 to be completed. I did suggest that the Czar was more of an apparatchik and told him I sincerely hoped that some czar-like powers, like those granted the Great Lakes Fishery Commision when the lamprey problem was raging, would come his way. He smiled, nodded, and I think is sincerely hoping that will happen as well.
Our local journalists seemed to focus on a very small part of the proposed solution, namely developing an American market and taste for carp. I ate a lot of carp when I was in the Soviet Union 35 years ago. I hated all of it. I've also had smoked carp at the Coon Rapids dam Carp Fest. That just proved my theory that anything tastes good smoked. I would doubt that Emeril, Paul Prudhomme, Bobby Flay, and others are preparing for a skyrocketing demand for carp entrees.
This is the last you will hear on carp from this soapbox for awhile unless something significant pops up. I just hope we can avert the catastrophe before it occurs rather than paying to keep it under control for perpetuity after it occurs like we do the lamprey.
(Leaping carp image courtesy of National Water Safety Council)