Army Corps approves $778M plan to block Asian carp advance
The head of the Army Corps of Engineers has sent Congress a 778 million U.S. dollars plan to fortify an Illinois waterway with noisemakers, electric cables and other devices in the hope that they will prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, where the aggressive invaders could leave other fish with too little to eat.
The plan is to install defenses at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, about 40 miles (about 64 kilometers) from Lake Michigan. The site is a crucial choke point in an aquatic pathway between the lake and the carp-infested Illinois River.
The plan represents a compromise between proposals to erect barriers that would seal off Lake Michigan from the river and less drastic measures such as stepped-up commercial fishing.
Environmentalists and states including Michigan had argued for physical separation, while Illinois and Indiana contended that it would disrupt cargo shipping and that a Chicago-area electric barrier was keeping the carp at bay.
Although only a few live Asian carp have been found past the barrier, the fish's DNA has turned up there as recently as April, when water samples were taken from Chicago's Lake Calumet. The Corps says the leading edge of adult bighead and silver carp – the most feared of several Asian species because they gorge on plankton that other fish need – is about four miles from the Brandon Road complex.
"The Brandon Road project is the only shot we have to get additional protections in place to stop the carp," said Marc Smith of the National Wildlife Federation. "It will significantly reduce the risk."
The plan calls for installing a gantlet of technologies intended to repel approaching fish, including additional electric barriers and underwater speakers that would blast loud noises, plus an "air bubble curtain." A specially designed "flushing lock" would wash away carp that might be floating on the water as vessels pass through.
It's now up to Congress to decide whether to authorize the project and provide most of the funding. A pending House bill recommends 3.8 million U.S. dollars for preconstruction, engineering and design work in 2020. The expected completion date is March 2027.
(Top image: File photo, Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jump from the Illinois River in the U.S. in 2012. /AP Photo)
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