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Nick Schroeck works to keep Asian carp out of Michigan's waters

Written by Julia Wendzinski

Nick Schroeck is the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit and also teaches in the environmental law clinic at Wayne State University.

Schroeck and the law center are closely monitoring the
Asian carp situation. Most recently there was a sexually mature Asian carp that was found in Lake Calumet, which is attached to the Great Lakes. This finding has environmentalists worried about how the fish got there and whether or not it moved beyond the electric barrier meant to keep the fish out of the lake.

“ The concern is that while most fish are deterred by the electric barrier, there are some that just don’t care. Over time they may build up a tolerance,” says Schroeck.

“If you look at the legal situation of trying to shut down the series of locks in Illinois and control structures in the waterway where the carp currently are, you can’t just go after the state of Illinois or the federal government. You kind of have to join all the different groups and figure out who operates what.”

Michigan, along with the Great Lake states excluding Illinois, wanted the federal government to take a look at the Asian carp situation. The states’ argument was if the fish get in to Lake Michigan and into the rest of the Great Lakes, they would cause severe harm to not only the fisheries but also to property values and peoples’ use and enjoyment of the Great Lakes.

There are conflicting views on the Asian carp situation and whether or not the locks in Illinois should be shut down. Opposing those who think it would cause environmental damage to the Great Lakes are those who believe there would be drastic economic repercussions because the locks offer a main way of shipping for the area. There are also scientists who aren’t sure whether or not the carp could actually survive in the Great Lakes.

Another issue that the
Great Lakes Environmental Law Center has worked on is one involving pharmaceuticals in Michigan’s drinking water. They are seeking to have the Food and Drug Administration require water to be screened for certain drugs that make their way into the water via waste water.

Other legal issues that Schroek is currently dealing with is transitioning Michigan away from coal energy into clean energy.

“What we need to do is pass laws that encourage and maybe even subsidize some renewable energy so we can at least get a level playing field,” says Schroeck. “What folks don’t realize is that coal and oil is subsidized by our federal government so getting that to change could upset some people.We’re not going to get off coal in the next five or 10 years, it’s going to be a long process.”

Nick Schroeck’s interview on invasive species with
Kirk Heinze can be heard here. 

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