Upgraded electronic barrier on Chicago canal is part of project

$51.2 million federal plan offered to protect Great Lakes from Asian carp

By Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel

July 24, 2013

President Barack Obama’s administration unveiled the federal government’s latest efforts on Wednesday to protect the Great Lakes from the Asian carp, including an upgrade of an electronic barrier in Illinois and an Indiana project that would serve as a buffer between the Mississippi River basin and the lakes.

The $51.2 million plan, building on a 2010 initiative, will raise spending to $200 million to keep the lakes free of the invasive carp, according to federal authorities.

The strategies, known as the 2013 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework, are designed to stop the spread of the carp from entering the Great Lakes, including a primary access point in Lake Michigan.

Bighead and silver carp, capable of consuming vast quantities of plankton, have long lurked in the waters of the Mississippi and many of its tributaries. The carp were were first imported to fish farms in the South.

Many scientists fear that if the carp invade the Great Lakes, they could upend the world’s largest source of fresh water and harm a multibillion-dollar fishery.

The latest plans call for a new electronic control barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal south of Chicago built near a barrier that began operating in 2002. The canal, linked to the Chicago River, offers a pathway to Lake Michigan.

Construction of the new barrier, and operating and maintaining the electronic system, will cost about $25 million, according to Wednesday’s report.

Also moving forward is construction of a berm-like physical barrier in a wetlands near Fort Wayne, Ind., that had previously been identified as a high-risk pathway for carp to infiltrate Lake Erie from the Wabash and Maumee river systems.

The state of Ohio is also considering closing the Ohio Erie Canal and Little Killbuck Creek in Medina County, south of Cleveland, because of the potential for the carp to enter Lake Erie, the report said.

The Journal Sentinel has reported extensively on the threat of invasive species like the Asian carp in the Great Lakes since 2003.

On Wednesday, John Goss of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said: “The strategy continues our aggressive effort to bolster our tools to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes while we work toward a long-term solution.”

Goss is the Obama administration’s point person on the Asian carp threat.

“The 2013 framework will strengthen our defenses against against Asian carp and move innovative carp-control projects from research to field trials for implementation,” Goss said in a statement.

Augmenting the electronic barrier, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will oversee construction of a mobile electronic device that can be pulled around Chicago-area waterways to disperse carp. It could also act as a temporary barrier for emergencies.

The report outlined other strategies that will be developed and tested.

This includes using the pulsing sound pressure shot by water guns and the use of toxins and biological control agents to kill or scare fish away. Alternatively, the report said, scientists will study using pheromones — chemicals that attract fish — as a way to potentially net and aggregate carp. Selected foods are also being eyed as attractants.

There will also be expanded sampling for potential hotspots for carp in southern Lake Michigan and western Lake Erie.

Despite such efforts, many officials, including those in Wisconsin, say the best way to stop a carp invasion is to construct a permanent barrier between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi.

Despite the presence of the electronic barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, water samples taken above the barrier have tested positive for DNA from Asian carp. One live carp has been found beyond the barrier.

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