The Hill‘s Elana Shor on Barack Obama’s earmarks: “Obama’s earmark requests range from the general, such as $65 million for service improvements to his state’s Metra commuter rail, to the quirky, such as $8.5 million for an Army Corps of Engineers barrier intended to keep Asian carp fish from entering the Great Lakes.” Quirky! But wait, I thought, why does Obama want to keep these carp out?
Well, it turns out that Asian carp populations have been growing extremely rapidly of late in the Mississippi River basin. As indicated by the name, these carp are indigenous to Asia rather than to North America and are exhibited one of these “invasive species”-type growth patters where they’re so well-adapted to an ecological niche that isn’t adapted to them, that the population booms and there’s risk of substantial problems for the rest of the local ecosystem. In a November 2000 report the USGS concluded that “On the basis of past experiences (e.g., with common carp), a failure to address the exotic species problem will likely result in more introductions and potential harmful effects to native biota.”
The EPA reports that “researchers expect that Asian carp would disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes” and “could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes Ecosystem.” So, yes, appropriating funds for the Army Corps of Engineers to keep carp out of the Great Lakes sounds a little silly, but a preliminary effort to research the issue seems to indicate that it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing.