Report proposes steps to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A federal report released Monday proposes a $275 million array of technological and structural upgrades at a crucial site in Illinois to prevent invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes and its vulnerable fish populations.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outlined its tentative plan in a report that had been scheduled for release in February but was delayed by the Trump administration, drawing criticism from members of Congress and environmental groups.

It analyzes options for upgrading the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet on the Des Plaines River, part of an aquatic chain that connects Lake Michigan to the Asian carp-infested Mississippi River watershed. The Brandon Road complex is considered a bottleneck where defenses could be strengthened against fish swimming upstream toward openings to the lake at Chicago.

Scientists say if the large, voracious carp became established in the Great Lakes, they could devastate the region’s $7 billion fishing industry by out-competing native species.

The Army corps said the plan outlined in the 488-page document is intended to block the path of invasive species “while minimizing impacts to waterway uses and users.” Elected officials and business leaders in Illinois and Indiana have said that significant changes to the Brandon Road complex could hamper cargo shipment on the busy waterway.

Among technologies the report endorses is using sound systems to create “complex noise” underwater that would deter fish from the Brandon Road area, plus installing a new approach channel and placing an electric barrier at its downstream end that would repel fish and stun them if they get too close. Brandon Road is several miles downstream from an existing barrier network in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Other measures would include installing water jets to wash away “small and stunned fish” that might be caught up around barges, plus a new lock where floating invasive species could be flushed away and rapid-response boat mooring and launch spots.

The report says the federal government would pay 65 percent of the costs project’s costs, with the rest coming from an unidentified “non-federal sponsor,” which Illinois officials said probably meant their state.

If the corps project were implemented, “Illinois taxpayers would be on the hook for over $95 million in construction cost and another $8 million in annual operation and maintenance costs,” Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti said.

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