The Army Corps of Engineers has a new plan to stop an invasive fish species from entering and wreaking havoc on the Great Lakes after months of delays.
The Army Corps released a 488-page report Monday, known as the Brandon Road study, detailing a long-term proposal for preventing Asian carp from migrating too far north, after the administration delayed the report out of concerns for commercial barge shipping.
The report proposes an alternative to shutting down the river lock completely, which would harm commercial navigation into Lake Michigan. The “technology alternative” plan avoids building structures on the river’s choke point and instead relies on an “electrical barrier” while ships are not passing through the lock.
When boats need to go through the lock, the Army Corps proposes a “complex noise” deterrent fish while the electrical barrier is down, along with “water jets, an engineered channel … a flushing lock, boat launches, and a mooring area” to further discourage the Asian carp and protect navigation.
Engineers selected the $275 million plan “because it meets the project objective by reducing the risk” of Asian carp establishing a home in the Great Lakes Basin “to the maximum extent possible, and it provides for continued navigation,” according to the report.
Federal authorities would be responsible for $179 million in startup costs, and about $11 million annually for maintenance. The Army Corps also expects to find non-federal authorities to contribute $96 million at the start of the project and $70,000 annually for upkeep.
After 45 days of public comment on the proposed plan, the Army Corps will continue to study the plan and make a decision on implementation in June 2018.
The Army Corps delayed releasing the report in February after Illinois Lieutenant Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti and shipping industry groups voiced concern about high costs and potential difficulties to shipping lanes.
“Any plan that disrupts commercial navigation with a big-barge bottleneck … will face opposition from the state of Illinois,” Sanguinetti wrote in February.
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and others are concerned that the Asian carp’s tremendous appetite — the fish can grow to 100 pounds and eat up to 20 percent of its body weight every day — could destroy local species by depleting the plankton food supply.
Baldwin even proposed legislation this summer to press the Army Corps to release the study, but the legislation didn’t make it to committee.
The fear of Asian carp was further stoked when workers found an 8-pound, 28-inch Asian carp about nine miles away from Lake Michigan in June. (RELATED: Senator Sounds The Alarm After Single Asian Carp Is Found Near Lake Michigan)
The Asian carp were originally introduced in the southern U.S. in the 1970s with hopes that their voracious appetite would make waterways cleaner. They did clean up the rivers a bit, but quickly multiplied and began dominating rivers as far north as Ohio and Illinois.
Numerous online videos show specimens of the large silver fish leaping from the water’s surface into boats and smacking people in the face.
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