A first-of-its-kind public opinion poll shows an overwhelming majority of people who live near the Great Lakes support immediate action to install additional structural protections that can keep Asian carp from moving out of Illinois rivers and into the Great Lakes.
The poll – commissioned by the Great Lakes Partnership to Block Asian Carp – is the first effort to survey residents in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin about their understanding of the risk of invasive carp.
In addition, the poll gauged support for potential solutions recommended by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop the nonnative fish from entering the Great Lakes. These include a proposal by Gov. Rick Snyder to help fund the ongoing operations and maintenance of the additional security improvements based on each state’s respective share of the Great Lakes. Under this “fair share” scenario, the state of Michigan would pay the most of any state by covering nearly half of the installation costs, while a state such as Illinois would pay only 2 percent or less. Michigan also has offered to pay the share of any state that cannot pay its own portion to block Asian carp and has dedicated state funds in the upcoming 2019 budget for this purpose.
“The poll results clearly demonstrate that Great Lakes residents understand that the time to act on Asian carp is now,” Gov. Snyder said. “We formed the Block Asian Carp partnership earlier this year to urgently address the threat invasive carp pose to our waters. The public’s support for immediate action affirms the importance of those efforts. It’s time to move forward with additional security measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam that will protect our Great Lakes and economic future.”
Highlights of the survey include:
- More than 9 in 10 respondents from each state believed it was important to immediately increase protections to block the spread of Asian carp to the Great Lakes at the recommendation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- More than 7 in 10 respondents from each state are likely to support the “fair share” funding proposal given the specific percent their state would be asked to pay.
- Support rises to more than 8 in 10 respondents likely to support the proposal when told Michigan would pay the share of any state that cannot pay its own portion to block Asian carp.
- Support for the fair share funding proposal is bipartisan, with more than 8 in 10 Republicans and Democrats in each state supporting their state’s funding contribution.
“People across the Great Lakes region recognize that Asian carp pose a major threat to their state’s economy and environment and they believe it is critical to increase protections immediately to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes,” Alliance for the Great Lakes Vice President for Policy Molly Flanagan said.
“The poll results show that more than 80 percent of the respondents want leaders in each of the Great Lakes states to work together to prevent Asian carp from entering new rivers and lakes, including the Great Lakes,” Flanagan said.
The online five-state survey was conducted by the national research firm Qualtrics from Aug. 22-Sept. 8, 2018 and is based on more than 3,000 responses. The sample was balanced to closely reflect each state’s age, race/ethnicity, gender, and geographic makeup.
The survey oversampled Illinois residents as Illinois is the only state identified by the Army Corps with the necessary rights of way, public water authority and jurisdiction to serve as the Corps’ nonfederal sponsor. An estimated $8 million is needed annually to provide the nonfederal share of funding to operate and maintain the Corps’ proposed stronger safeguards. Findings from Illinois show:
- When told the Army Corps of Engineers recommends adding new protective measures in Illinois to block the spread of Asian carp to the Great Lakes, 94 percent of Illinois respondents say it is important to increase the protections immediately.
- 86 percent of Illinois respondents agree that all states connected to the Great Lakes should work together to prevent Asian carp from entering additional rivers and lakes, including the Great Lakes.
- 54 percent of Illinois respondents say they are at least moderately familiar with Asian carp.
- 76 percent of Illinois respondents say that Asian carp are a major or moderate threat to the Great Lakes.
- 78 percent of Illinois respondents support a funding proposal that would require Illinois to pay 2 percent or less of the costs to block Asian carp based on the state’s share of the Great Lakes.
- When told that Michigan will pay the costs of any state that cannot pay, support among Illinois respondents increases to 87 percent.
- In Illinois, 85 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of independents support a funding proposal that would require Illinois to pay 2 percent or less of the security system upgrade costs to block Asian carp.
- When respondents are presented with the case for and against immediate action to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, 88 percent were likely to support immediate action.
The strong Illinois results mirror the sentiments of members of the Chicago Association of REALTORS® who are concerned the risk of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes, especially Lake Michigan, could permanently harm the city’s quality of life.
“There are very few great downtowns like Chicago that are on the water,” Brian Bernardoni, the association’s senior director of government affairs and public policy said. “Lake Michigan is one of our state’s best assets, and its destruction by Asian carp would be inexcusable. It could not only lower property values but could limit our ability to attract and recruit talent who want to live in communities that are walkable and provide easy access to outdoor recreation like boating, kayaking, sailing and fishing.”
The interstate Block Asian Carp partnership is a diverse coalition founded by Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, the city of Chicago and the province of Ontario, which have committed to providing financial or policy support for the Army Corps’ tentative plan. The coalition members are united in support of the Army Corps’ recommendation to install a suite of prevention technologies at Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Illinois, the most effective proposal yet developed to prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.
“A regional partnership approach strikes the right balance to protect the recreational opportunities offered by the Great Lakes Basin and preserve our waterways for current and future generations to enjoy,” National Marine Manufacturers Association Director of Federal Government Affairs Mike Pasko said.
LafargeHolcim, the Zurich-based global leader in the building materials industry that is the world’s largest cement producer and operates an underground mine in Joliet, is among the newest members to join the partnership and endorse the fair share state payment plan introduced by Gov. Snyder.
“LafargeHolcim believes that the Tentatively Selective Plan, issued by the Corps of Engineers for Brandon Road Lock and Dam, is a good starting place to find a compromise that ensures that proper deterrents are utilized to protect the ecosystem and commercial navigation of the Great Lakes,” Michael LeMonds, LafargeHolcim vice president of land, environment and government affairs for the United States said.
Asian carp are an invasive species from China. They are currently in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Asian carp – especially silver and bighead carp, the two species of greatest concern – harm river and lake ecosystems by eating all available food, causing other, native fish species such as bass, trout and salmon to starve. They also jeopardize human safety when the often-100-pounds-or-more fish jump from the water and injure boaters. In 2017, an Asian carp was found just 9 miles from Lake Michigan.
“Residents and leading stakeholders across the Great Lakes Basin are almost unanimous in their belief that doing nothing and continuing with the status quo is not a viable option,” Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh said.
“Michigan stands ready to go beyond the call of duty to support immediate action at the Brandon Road Lock because we know funding the Army Corps’ plan will provide the most layers of protection that will keep invasive carp from destroying the Great Lakes,” Creagh said.
The Block Asian Carp partnership today also announced an online petition Great Lakes residents can sign to encourage elected officials and policymakers to help protect the Great Lakes against invasive carp. To sign the petition, visit www.BlockAsianCarp.org.
To hear what Illinois residents have to say about the devastating effects Asian carp have had on recreation and commercial fishing in their once-thriving communities on the Illinois River, watch this video shot on location in Bath, Chillicothe and Havana, Illinois – “ground zero” for Asian carp.