WASHINGTON — Legislation to help stop the spread of Asian carp to the Great Lakes crossed a final legislative hurdle Wednesday, passing the House. It awaits only President Barack Obama's signature.
The Asian Carp Control and Prevention Act prohibits the importation or interstate shipment of Asian carp, which can grow beyond four feet long and weigh 100 pounds. They devour large amounts of plankton that native species need to survive. Their entry into the Great Lakes would seriously harm the region's sport fishing, environmental and tourism industries, groups say.
The bill passed the House swiftly, following action in November by the Senate. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrats of New York, were cosponsors on that side of the Capitol.
Asian carp have been moving northward along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which connects the Mississippi River system to Lake Michigan. An electronic barrier placed on the canal may have failed, biologists say, as carp genetic material has been discovered on the other side.
If carp do reach Lake Michigan, scientists say, their spread throughout the Great Lakes would be all but impossible to stop.
While the legislation does not address that northward spread, supporters say it closes another potential way the fish could find a way into the system. It also enjoys wider support; proposals to temporarily or even permanently close waterways that lead into Lake Michigan have sparked opposition from shipping concerns.
Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who signed on to the House version of the bill, noted that the measure avoids the unsettled debate about closing waterways.
"Obviously what we're attempting to do here is take what I'm going to call a first step," Mr. Owens said in a telephone interview.