Do We Really Need a ‘Carp Czar’ to Solve Asian Carp Debate?

| by Andrew Langer

With yet another federal lawsuit filed, congressional committee hearings scheduled and statewide campaigns of Republican and Democratic candidates alike honing in on the issue, the Asian carp debate continues to grow across the Midwest and Great Lakes.  When many outside the region hear the panicked calls to tear down the engineering marvel that connects the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico in response to a rather funny looking fish, they think the entire matter is utterly hilarious.  Well, this problem turns out to be no laughing matter – especially now that the demands of many environmentalists and politicians in the region are moving from the ridiculous to the completely outrageous. 

Recently, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) requested President Barack Obama appoint a 'Carp Czar'.  That's right – no fish is too small for this administration to fry by quickly appointing a Czar to solve the problem.  And in fact, this latest czar would have total control over the dozens of federal agencies working to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.  Therein lays the problem.

The goal of everyone involved in this issue, at least right now, is to prevent Asian carp from populating the Great Lakes. Government agencies in multiple states have been working on this issue for literally decades, ever since the EPA accidentally introduced Asian carp to begin with.  And, those agencies have had a great deal of success lately.  Just a few weeks ago, Illinois announced a plan to begin commercially harvesting Asian carp and exporting them to China in an effort to control their population downriver.  At the Federal level, the Army Corps of Engineers has erected several barriers after carefully studying the best options available.  Those barriers have contained the spread of Asian carp to date, and the Corps is working on new solutions to support those already in place. 

Now, we want to put their hard work under the oversight of a DC politician that will allegedly have the in-depth knowledge, professional experience, and operational understanding of relevant agencies to oversee this process smoothly and, more importantly, with the best outcomes rather than a political agenda in mind.  Something smells fishy.

The men and women leading the response do so because they have worked on this issue and many similar problems for decades.  They are not beholden to any one group or politician, but to the communities they serve; they pursue a scientific process that will solve this problem for good.  This is a model for sound regulation, and it is what drives opportunistic alarmists mad.  Appointing a biased 'Carp Czar' to push a political agenda is a dream come true for radical environmentalists who want to use this issue as an excuse to shut down waterway commerce and permanently close waterways across the country to maritime transportation.


Over a year ago, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia wrote a letter to President Obama over his concern the overzealous appointment of unmanaged czars would lead to major roadblocks regarding matters of national policy.  The Senator, a great advocate for his state’s issues, understood the importance of local control and collaboration on complicated projects.   In the response to Asian carp, state Departments of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other relevant agencies continue (as they have for years) to work on prioritizing the concerns of each state dealing with this threat.  That collaborative, localized process has, to date, protected local economies while simultaneously promoting long-term solutions that serve the entire region. 

This Czar will, at best, only muddy existing processes with red tape and political hand holding.  At worst, it could lead to politically motivated decisions that fail to address the problem, waste billions in taxpayer dollars and wreak havoc on the regional economy by shutting down valuable transportation routes. 

If there is one thing the Asian carp debate does not need it is more bureaucracy and confusion.  What it requires are regulators and lawmakers who have the very best intention of doing right by those they represent.  The alarmists should step down from their soapbox and work with regional counterparts toward a comprehensive, long-term solution. 

Let's tone down the panic, stop the grandstanding and work on a rational approach.  Then, there's simply no need for yet another czar.