Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fish Story

In my youth I once received a less-than-stellar report card. I got the idea to wait until I had to leave for school the next day to show it to my parents and collect their signatures. I thought it was pretty clever. No lectures, no punishment. Just some momentary disapproval and I was out the door.

This worked exactly once, and from that point forward my parents made it their business to know when report cards were being issued.

After reading how yet-another government contractor has pulled another fast one on yet-another feckless government agency, I'm sorry my parents aren't in government. Or at least don't work for Smith-Root, Inc. or the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Asian carp was initially brought to the U.S. to control parasites on Arkansas fish farms and to eat algae in area sewage treatment plants. After escaping into the wild, they crowded-out native species in the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers, and now stand poised to infiltrate the Great Lakes.

To halt their migration, an electronic barrier (designed and constructed by Smith-Root, Inc.) was installed on the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal, which connects Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River basin.

But Asian carp DNA has now been found beyond the supposedly impenetrable barrier.

Worse, the contractor never told the Army Corps of Engineers that the barrier needed to be turned-off every six-months or so for periodic maintenance until after it was installed.

Remind you of anyone?

As a consequence, mass fish kills are required whenever the barrier is switched-off for its tune-ups. Huge quantities of poison are dumped in the canal, and after the die-off and the maintenance are complete, the poison is allegedly neutralized, the dead fish are collected and the barrier is turned back on.

Maybe it's poor communication. Maybe it's fraud. Maybe the fish barrier isn't the only thing lacking sufficient electrical current. Whatever the case, you can bet Smith-Root won't be held liable for the cost of the poisoning and collection. Or for subsequent poisonings and collections.

We will.

We can't quite seize the carp, but we can certainly carpe taxpayer dollar.

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