Illinois, Michigan, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sign Agreements to Advance Invasive Carp Prevention Project at Brandon Road Lock and Dam

Illinois, Michigan, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sign Agreements to Advance Invasive Carp Prevention Project at Brandon Road Lock and Dam

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and Illinois governor JB Pritzker announced on January 7 that the states would work together to protect the Great Lakes from invasive Asian carp species. The intergovernmental agreement between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) allows Illinois to use up to $8 million in funds appropriated in 2018 by the Michigan Legislature to support the preconstruction engineering and design (PED) phase of the Brandon Road Ecosystem Project.

Further strengthening the path forward, the State of Illinois also signed a separate PED agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the initial Brandon Road design. The state will serve as the non-federal sponsor, agreeing to help fund design of a portion of the project and to further advance full project design efforts to approximately 30% completion.

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the Chicago Area Waterway System near Joliet, Illinois, is a critical pinch point for keeping bighead, silver, and black carp—the invasive Asian carp species of greatest concern—out of the Great Lakes. The Brandon Road project would install layered technologies including an electric barrier, underwater sound, an air bubble curtain, and a flushing lock in a newly engineered channel designed to prevent invasive carp movement while allowing barge passage.

The intergovernmental agreement, finalized on Dec. 24, supports the State of Illinois’ role as the non-federal sponsor of the PED phase of this United States Army Corps of Engineers project and outlines a collaboration process allowing MDNR’s input in decision-making regarding the design work.

It is predicted that the arrival of live bighead, silver, or black carp in the Great Lakes could have drastic effects on the region’s $7 billion fishery, $16 billion boating industry and other tourism-based industries, property owners, recreationalists, and others dependent on the Great Lakes and its tributaries. An electric dispersal barrier installed in the waterway near Romeoville, Illinois in 2002 to prevent invasive species from moving into and out of the Great Lakes has since been supplemented by two additional electric barriers in the same location. A fourth more powerful barrier at the Romeoville site is expected to be operational in 2021.

As the Brandon Road project moves forward, current efforts will continue, including the electric barriers near Romeoville and expanded nonstructural measures, including focused commercial fishing, monitoring, and prescribed netting to reduce the risk of spawning or of small fish movement through the existing lock and dam.

February 16, 2021