Public Input Sought to Prevent Invasive Carp from Entering Great Lakes

Public Input Sought to Prevent Invasive Carp from Entering Great Lakes

The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of all surface freshwater on the planet and comprise the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem. Invasive bighead, silver and black carp (collectively known as invasive Asian Carp) can significantly alter the Great Lakes ecosystem, affecting the $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. A study of options to reduce passage of carp at a key point below the Great Lakes Basin was released in August by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) with final decisions on the selected plan expected in the coming months.

Netting Asian Carp

The Mississippi River Basin, which has invasive carp, is connected to the Great Lakes Basin in a small number of locations. Some are natural connections and some are man-made. The Brandon Road Lock and Dam site in Will County, Illinois is the best known and perhaps most controversial location to establish a barrier to upstream transfer of invasive carp from the Mississippi River Basin. Controversy exists because Brandon Lock is a key transportation element for water-based movement of materials through the Illinois waterway and the most likely pinch point to prevent Asian carp from moving into the Great Lakes. Current efforts, including using an electric barrier system to prevent invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes, occur further upstream, but this system has vulnerabilities and is not 100 percent effective.

The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study – Brandon Road Draft Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement – Will County, IL (Draft GLMRIS-BR Report) evaluates options and technologies near the Brandon Road Lock and Dam site in Will County, Illinois near Joliet, to prevent the upstream transfer of aquatic nuisance species (ANS) from the Mississippi River Basin into the Great Lakes Basin, while minimizing impacts to existing waterway uses and users. On August 7, 2017, the Army Corp released its Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) for Brandon Road Lock and Dam.

The report comes less than two months after a live Asian carp was caught beyond electric barriers near Chicago. It was the first silver carp found beyond the electric barriers in the last seven years, with a bighead carp captured near this location in 2010. Additional fishing and sampling found no other carp, however.

Potential actions at Brandon Road, outlined in the TSP, include an engineered channel that will allow for the deployment of technologies to reduce the risk of carp moving into Lake Michigan to the maximum extent possible. Those technologies include: A) a modified electric barrier to reduce the risk of transport of fish, B) complex noises transmitted through the water to deter fish from passing through the lock, C) water jets to flush out fish that may pass through the locks in the space between barges, and D) continued population reduction below Brandon Road with the goal of further reducing the risk of any spawning in this area or of small fish moving through the lock and dam.

USACE is accepting comments on the Draft GLMRIS-BR Report through public meetings, the GLMRIS website, mail, and hand-delivery through November 16, 2017.

Photo Credit
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Flickr
November 15, 2017