Environment
5:00 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Can Army Corps Plan Stop Asian Carp?

Credit Army Corps of Engineers

The Army Corps of Engineers issued a long-awaited report about ways to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.  

The agency worked its way through more than 90 strategies and settled on eight that rose to the top. Each features combinations of controls – from electric barriers to public education. Several would close the link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.

Credit GLMRIS Report

Project manager Dave Wethington points to the Corps’ most novel proposal - a lock system. It would flush water from a vessel as it moves from one basin to the other.

"As a vessel enters the GLMRIS lock and the gates close behind it; then a pump removes the water from one end and on the opposite end fills the lock with water – clean water. Now the water has been treated for aquatic nuisance species, which is why we call it “the clean water,” Wethington says.

Wethington says, the price tags of the proposals range from about eight to 18 billion dollars and could take 25 years to complete. And still, no plan can guarantee protection from every invasive plant, animal or pathogen that might challenge the basins.

“It could be very likely that you spend several million or billion dollars on infrastructure investments and still have other ways that species could be transfer between the basins, such as human-mediated transport, such as bait buckets or intentional transfer between the basins, or accidental transfer of some of the smaller species of concern like through water fowl movement or algae moving from one side to the other,” Wethington says.

The Corps is holding a series of public meetings on the topic – starting Thursday in Chicago. Milwaukee will host a hearing on January 13.

People are already commenting.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette stated, “...any plan that fails to aggressively pursue a full ecological separation of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins leaves Michigan and the Midwest at risk to severe ecological and economic damage. The GLMRIS report was released on the last day of an 18-month deadline set by Congress in 2012.”

The Alliance for the Great Lakes supports full ecological separation of the two basins. “We don’t have time to waste,” according to executive director Joel Brammeier. “Recent studies confirm that the electric barrier—currently the last line of defense to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes—may not be a barrier at all. Fish can breach the electrical field as ships pass through it, with small fish able to swim through in schools. The status quo is not acceptable and we need quick action to improve protection of the lakes.”