Monday, January 10, 2011

Yet another Czar!

In the heyday of the Romanov's in Russia, it was pretty much a crap shoot as to whether the people were ruled by a good czar or a bad czar. Nicholas I, the guy that killed roughly 1200 of his subjects in the 1825 Decemberist revolt, would be the bad example and Alexander II, who freed the serfs and instituted several democratic reforms, would be the good example. Peter the Great, in the image above, was a mixture. In our non-fight against invasive species on the Great Lakes, the Asian carp in particular, I can't figure out if we have a good czar or a bad czar. What I think we have is an invisible, ineffectual, do nothing czar. More of an apparatchik as long as we are so fond of Russian terminology. Now we actually have have two false czar/apparatchiks.

Cameron Davis is the Great Lakes czar, appointed by President Obama in June of 2009. If Mr.Davis is Googled, the story of his appointment is pretty much all you will find. That would lead a cynic like me to conclude that not a hell of a lot of newsworthy achievements have been forthcoming in the 17 months since the appointment. If the determined Googler digs a bit deeper, they can uncover some testimony that was given to Congress by the Great Lakes Czar about a year ago. If you can read it (it actually makes an Alan Greenspan statement sound sparse and almost Hemmingway-esque) and figure out if we've done anything or plan to do anything constructive about the issue or not, then please explain the plan to me.

It's pretty obvious from the record that having only Mr Davis to wield his powerful czardom for the cause of carp control does not seem to be working. The solution of course, would be to appoint a special, all powerful Asian Carp czar and that, by god, is just what President Obama did. Back in September John Goss was appointed as Asian Carp Czar. "I believe that will be one of my strengths, talking at the level of the department of natural resources in each of the states so that we can very carefully coordinate our efforts," Goss said. So far we have 'very carefully' done next to nothing. The waterway that connects the Mississippi River system to Lake Michigan is still wide open, other than the 'barrier'. Scientists devised a genetics based test to detect Asian carp DNA and used it to find said DNA in 58 water samples over the past year on the Lake Michigan side of the 'barrier'. These peer reviewed results were called into question by....drum roll.....attorneys for Chicago shipping interests, a group known internationally for their keen interest and legendary expertise in DNA research. Much like critics of the global warming research, these highly trained 'legal geneticists' are certain that the science is faulty.

The depressing thing is that we know exactly what to do. We actually geared up, got our heads on straight, and had the political will to do it in the 1950's after the lamprey had destroyed the Great Lakes fishery. Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a superb article on the history of the lamprey issue, how Tasmania is dealing with a similar carp issue, and how it all relates to what is NOT happening today on the Asian carp issue. Even if you don't finish reading this post, please read that article. Its not only wonderful background but spot on.

Minnesota is attempting to work on the issue and has begun to lurch in a forward direction. Chris Niskanen of the St Paul paper attended the two day public meetings in Brooklyn and wrote a very succinct summary in his blog. The issues in Minnesota parallel the issues in the rest of the Great Lakes region.

I like to fish. I've always liked to fish. During the times when the large predator fish are in shallow water and accessible I always figure that if I'm paddling I might as well have a lure in the water. In addition to being lots of fun there is nothing better than fresh Lake Superior trout or salmon grilled over the fire on a long paddle trip. When I was a kid though, trout were pretty much non existent on the big lake. Because there were no trout, species like the alewife and smelt were rampant. When we crossed Lake Michigan on the car ferry in the above photo, circa 1966, the one thing I remember was the almost constant sight and stench of dead alewives on the water from Ludington, MI to Kewaunee, WI. As the Egan article pointed out, at that point they made up almost 90% of the biomass of the lake. Lamprey control and stocking of native lake trout and non native salmon got those populations under control but we don't need to go through that headache again. Unlike the lamprey, there is no selective poison to get rid of zebra mussels or Asian carp. The end of Dan Egan's article sums up the issue best:

Lamprey pioneer Louis King says the lakes, battered as they are, deserve the best we have.

"We're obligated," he says. "These are the greatest bodies of freshwater in the world."

But here is the critical question: Exactly who is obligated, and who should be held accountable?

"When it's everybody's responsibility," Alliance for the Great Lakes' Brammeier says, "it's nobody's responsibility."

1 comment:

Silbs said...

Good, powerful stuff. Your range and depth of knowledge never fails to amaze me.