Jacobs rides to the rescue on Asian carp eradication
As families gathered for Thanksgiving across northwest Illinois, the main topic of conversation for young and old at the table this year wasn't Iraq, taxes, bird flu, or the Bears. It was who in the world could we depend on to step forward and create a public/private partnership to protect us from Asian carp. What was the use of living if it was in a world dominated by these souless fat jumping bastards.
Well, fear no more. Senator Jacobs, with his finger on the pulse of the electorate, has stepped into the breach to propose carp related program activities.
State Senator state Mike Jacobs says he is anxious to get something done about the problem of the Asian carp that now infest many of Illinois waterways.Mmmmmmm Vacuum-packed carp, it's not just for breakfast anymore.
The Moline Democrat says that while the invasive fish are an ecological nightmare, they could be the source of new jobs and other economic benefits for the state.
Jacobs says that when the legislative session opens in January, he will propose a public-private venture and request 900 thousand dollars in state funds for Schafer's Fisheries, the largest wholesale fish supplier in the Midwest.
Schafer's, which has branches in Fulton and Thompson, recently started production of an organic fish fertilizer. The company is also considering several options to create and fill the market for Asian carp including a protein extraction plant, a frozen fish pattie and vacuum-packed carp.
Some carp have escaped the southern fish farms and made their way north along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and could soon reach the Great Lakes. An electric barrier south of Chicago, which gives the fish a non-lethal jolt, is designed to prevent them from entering Lake Michigan.From the U.S. EPA:
Asian carp, which often leap out of the water, can grow to more than 100 pounds.
As filter feeders, they're affecting the Illinois River food chain by eating plankton needed by native fish.
The silver species which leaps from the water makes boating dangerous when the large fish crash into boats, hitting people and damaging equipment.
They grow quickly, have no natural predators and won't bite a hook. One fish can produce 2.2 million eggs.
Some experts believe the electronic barrier installed to keep them out of the Great Lakes has come too late.
Federal and state agencies completed construction of an electrical fish barrier as a demonstration project to study the effectiveness of preventing species migration between the River and the Lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the temporary electronic dispersal barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near Romeoville, Illinois, at a cost of approximately $2.2 million. It was activated in April, 2002.
In late October 2004, construction will begin on a second, more permanent barrier. The new barrier, scheduled to be completed in February 2005, stretches two rows of electrodes across the canal approximately 220 feet apart. The electrodes pulse DC current into the water, causing fish will turn back rather than pass through the electric current.
The cost of this permanent barrier is $9.1 million. These funds are 75% federal and 25% non-federal. The State of Illinois has committed $1.7 for the non-federal share.
So the state and federal government have a barrier in place which it going to be made permanent at a cost of over $10 million dollars all together. Is handing a private company nearly a million bucks to harvest the raw material they'll then process and make a profit on really in the public interest?
Having private interests harvest this invasive species is a fine idea. It's win-win. Someone like Shafer's can harvest the fish or buy them from independent fisherman, and then process the fish into various products and, with good management, make a profit and expand their business and create a handful of jobs in the process.
But where I'm confused is, why does Shafer's, which I'm sure is a fine company, need nearly a million bucks of our money to do this? If they need start-up capital, shouldn't they go to their banker like everyone else?
If the state were paying them simply to eradicate the carp and say, bury them or something as a means of protecting the fisheries and waterways, then that would be one thing. They'd need to be paid to cover their costs. But this proposal isn't about getting rid of a potentially harmful invader species. That should be able to be accomplished in the free market without taxpayer funded subsidies.
Shafer's is going to process the carp into potentially profitable by-products. Why shouldn't they pay for the raw materials for their business like every other business in the country, or world for that matter? Yet Jacobs is pointing to his proposal to hand them nearly a million tax dollars as if it's a great accomplishment for which we should all be grateful.
As long as someone says the magic words, "public/private partnership", and "jobs", are we supposed to just swallow that it must be ok and we shouldn't ask exactly how many jobs, at what pay scale, will be created and what we're getting in exchange for our nearly one million dollars? The question should be asked, how much is Jacobs proposing we pay per job created.
What gives? Somebody straighten me out here as to why Jacob's proposal is good for anyone but Shafer's and perhaps the few lucky people who may get one of the added jobs. And don't say it will get rid of carp. Thankfully, with several commercial uses for carp byproducts, that could be accomplished in the marketplace without public dollars.
What do you think?